Elementary schools in at least seven cities are piloting an innovative handheld computer that costs only $50 and can be used to help teach reading and math. The nonprofit organization that developed the device, Chicago-based Innovations for Learning, bills it as “the world’s most affordable solution” for giving a computer to every student.

The “teachermate” handheld computer, as the device is called, features a 2.5-inch color screen, 512 megabytes of internal memory, an SD slot for expandability, a built-in microphone and speaker, and a battery life of four hours. An innovative case that holds...

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