Yes they can! I had a teacher who was very excited to talk to me the other day. She has 6 iPads in her junior classroom and I have been working individually with her and the teachers in her school this year. Over this time, the teachers have been taken through the basics of how to use an iPad, troubleshooting, apps to use in the classroom and then how to use iPads in teaching and learning. This teacher was a little skeptical about the iPads. She knew that they were a great way to engage children but was it making any difference to their learning and achievement? I encouraged her last term to use the iPads in her teaching sessions with the students rather than just only letting them use the iPads as a followup activity.
She had been using the traditional cardboard Tens Frame chart to teach students how to count on.
Most of her students got the strategies but there were a few who didn't including one special needs boy.
Previously I had shown her Matthew Thomas's app 'Tens Frame' and so she used it in her teaching session. The special needs boy picked up the strategy first time using the iPad and the rest of the group got it very quickly as well. She was astounded by this and has continued to use the app with all her students with fantastic results. When I asked her what she thought made the difference, she was not sure but she said that the monsters on the counters appealed to the children.
She also uses Matthew's 100s board extensively with the same success. Have a look at some of the other apps Matthew has on his website.
Another app that she uses a lot in her teaching is the Number Pieces Basics. Again she has found all students were able to be very successful in their learning when using this app in the teaching session.
Since then she is looking at apps in a new light and thinking about how she can use them as a teaching tool.