[Numeracy 331] Re: Mathematical Disabilities

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Ryan Hall sryanhall at gmail.com
Tue Apr 27 10:20:07 EDT 2010


I agree with what Susan says in her post-- whether there is a disability or
not (and I would add whether it is documented or not), good practice is to
treat each student as an individual. In fact, good instruction means that we
teachers change our approach when what we're currently doing isn't working
for the student. When this topic comes up, I always think about something I
heard Tom Sticht say in one of his presentations: (I'm going to use quotes,
even though I know I'm not remembering his exact phrasing) "If you want to
see differences among students, teach them all the same. If you don't want
to see differences, teach them differently." So, if someone's definition of
not treating anyone differently means that the person varies instruction for
each student until the student gets the concept, then that makes sense.

To teach differently means that we teachers must make sure that our toolkit
has varied methods for teaching different skills...and we must remain very
cognizant of the fact that just because we show someone how to do something,
it doesn't mean that s/he will get it the first time, or retain it for the
next time, or be able to transfer the skill to a different area. And, I
would be very careful in labeling students as LD if they had issues in doing
any of the above. I could point out the fact that I personally struggled
with a lot of math concepts, but someone might say that I, too, have a math
disability. So, I will use teaching as an example...
Many of us go to conferences or attend professional development seminars
that are geared to help us increase the types of teaching strategies we have
in our teaching toolkit. How many times have we gotten excited about an idea
and gone back to our classroom to try it out only to find that we didn't
"get it" the first time it was presented to us? Or, perhaps we are told by
our administrators that it is an expectation that, for example, we change
our teaching approach from a more teacher-directed classroom to a
student-centered approach, but we can't seem to make the transition in all
of our classes on a consistent basis? Does that make us learning disabled in
some way? Or does it simply mean that we need to have the concept explained
to us again, maybe have it modeled, try it out and get feedback, and then
continue to practice?
I'm not sure if my example is coming across quite as clear as I hope, but
sometimes I think that it would be very helpful for teachers to try to put
themselves in their students' shoes somehow (using a skill that is new and
potentially difficult for them to apply) to see how using labels like LD
might be (or not) beneficial to their instruction. I think that many might
find that the label isn't as helpful as they might have hoped, and that
focusing on varying their instruction (which may come from the LD field) is
a more beneficial use of their time.
Obviously LD is not my area of expertise. And, when the teachers I supervise
come to me with questions concerning possible learning disabilities among
their students, I do use the example I gave here, BUT I also refer them to
the Learning Disability discussion list so that they can get clarification
from LD experts in the field. With limited resources, there isn't much else
I feel I can do. This is probably a question better suited for the LD list,
but I do wonder what other supervising teachers/admin staff at ABE programs
do/say to their teachers when they present concerns about possible learning
disabilities as the reason their students aren't catching on to certain
concepts.
Ryan


On 4/26/10 1:39 PM, "Susan Fontenot" <sfontenot1 at student.gsu.edu> wrote:


> Looking through my overfull inbox I ran across this thread of emails. Sorry

> this is so late, but I do feel passionately about students (children and

> adults) with learning disabilities.

>

>> From the articles I have read on learning disabled adult learners, most are

>> self-report. Does this mean that there are many out there who have

>> disabilities and are undiagnosed/undocumented? I agree with Andrew's

>> statement when he said "I don't actually treat them that differently". Since

>> there is no consensus on "best practices", why not teach to the student?

>> Whether they have a disability or not, "good practice" is to treat each

>> student as an individual, especially adults. If a student struggles in a

>> specific area, it should become apparent to the teacher which areas to focus

>> on. (This is just my opinion)

>

> I have taught math using the Everyday Math curriculum. It is geared toward

> children, but the authentic materials used can easily be translated for

> adults. It focuses on the underlying concepts of math versus rote memorization

> of facts.

>

> Thanks!

> Susan

>

> ________________________________________

> From: numeracy-bounces at nifl.gov [numeracy-bounces at nifl.gov] on behalf of

> Andrew Isom [isom at centerforliteracy.org]

> Sent: Tuesday, April 13, 2010 9:57 AM

> To: numeracy at nifl.gov

> Subject: [Numeracy 304] Re: Mathematical Disabilities

>

> OK, I'm feeling particularly verbose today, apparently

>

> Sorry, Brooke, for the delayed response. Some of my students have documented

> disabilities. Every year that I've taught, this has been the case for me.

>

> This is probably, not the kosher answer, but: I don't actually treat them that

> differently. First of all, I'm certain that many or most of my students have

> some undocumented disability/ies. And, second, I think best practice is best

> practice. What's best practice in teaching ABE? I'm still working on that, but

> a few things are certain. Teaching multi-modally. This touches on every

> students strength and it helps students to connect the various modes of

> thought and ways of engaging with the problem at hand. Secondly, it must be

> engaging. No matter how intensely students want to learn and achieve and

> succeed, you will put them to sleep if it is not engaging. One solution that I

> have is one of the best teaching practices that I have ever come across: Math

> Football. It's an amazingly but incredibly powerful technique. Draw a football

> field on the board and put some magnets up to represent the player/students.

> Give each student a personal whiteboard (which can be bought for fairly

> cheap at a home depot -- I can't remember what it's called, but it's a

> kitchen-related material that is white and dry-erasable,) marker and some old

> cloth for eraser. Write a question on the board. If the student answers

> correctly, give them a playing card. The card determines how many yards their

> player moves. Q,A,2= 0yds; 3-6= 5yds; 7-10= 10yds; J= 15yds; K= 20yds. I don't

> even have to award prizes every student competes with vigor and many have

> expressed how much they enjoy the game. The flexibility afforded by this

> provides the opportunity to pause and explain (or have another student

> explain) the problem. Then, when a student just learns it, you can repeat the

> problem with slight variation until the get a solid grasp on it; once they do,

> you can kick it up a small notch, thus providing them with constant success

> while at the same time stretching their ability.

>

> Lastly, emotions are paramount. Work very hard on getting them to trust you

> and feel safe with and feel confident that you are looking out for them and

> will ensure their success to the best of your ability.

>

> These practices tend to cover the accomodations that I am supposed to make for

> students that have documented needs.

>

> Hope that helps~~

>

> Andrew J. Isom

> Math Specialist

> Center For Literacy

> North Philadelphia Community High School

> isom at centerforliteracy.org

> (215)744-6000 ext. 210

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

> -----Original Message-----

> From: numeracy-bounces at nifl.gov on behalf of numeracy-request at nifl.gov

> Sent: Fri 4/9/2010 12:00 PM

> To: numeracy at nifl.gov

> Subject: Numeracy Digest, Vol 4, Issue 11

>

> When replying, please edit your Subject line so it is more specific

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> Today's Topics:

>

> 1. [Numeracy 298] Mathematical Disabilities (Denney, Brooke)

>

>

> ----------------------------------------------------------------------

>

> Message: 1

> Date: Thu, 8 Apr 2010 23:11:15 -0500

> From: "Denney, Brooke" <denneyb at cowley.edu>

> Subject: [Numeracy 298] Mathematical Disabilities

> To: <Numeracy at nifl.gov>

> Message-ID:

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> <247BF273F13AD743ACE4221F9EF6F916043E5D4F at exchsrv2003.tigers.cowley.edu>

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>

> A question was posted to the list a while back that never received much

> discussion, the question asked if anyone had any experiences working with

> adults with documented or suspected disabilities and if so, how did you deal

> with their disability and teaching them numeracy/math skills.

>

> There is an interesting article on that can be found on the LINCS Resource

> Basic Skills Mathematics & Numeracy Collection by Rochelle Kenyon, here is a

> direct link:

> http://www.nifl.gov/lincs/resourcecollections/abstracts/basicskills/RC_skills_

> abs21.html

>

> But what experiences has anyone had directly working with this population that

> seems to be growing each year? And what "best practices" do you suggest?

>

>

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