math and the special needs learner
Daisy was the highest reader in Mr. Thompson's 3rd grade class. She had excellent comprehension and the work that she produced during Writer's Workshop showed a strong correlation between both reading and writing. During the reading block, Daisy was actively engaged in the lessons and even helped students who struggled in reading. However, math time was just the opposite. Daisy's grades were well below average. She failed to make sense of multi-step problems and often times mixed up operations (ex: she added instead of subtracting, etc.) Even with visual models and hands on math materials, Daisy could not explain patterns that she noted when skip counting by 2's, 5's, or even 10's. This really concerned Mr. Thompson. In speaking with Daisy's parents they also expressed their concerns about her struggles in Math. They also admitted that Daisy becomes very irritable and tries to avoid doing her math homework. Her parents also stated that she cries and says she hates math because it's too hard.
In an article by Kate Garnett (2018), approximately 6% of school-aged children have significant math deficits and among students classified as learning disabled, arithmetic difficulties are as pervasive as reading problems. Math failure during school years certainly affect a person's life as an adult. Just as reading is a life skill, math concepts such as mathematical reasoning play a critical role in an adults ability to function in society.
Math disabilities are persistent and just like reading disabilities they range from mild to severe. Some of the most common challenges for students include an inability to master basic number facts, confusion between math symbols and hands-on materials (ex: as in the case of Daisy in the opening scenario), and specific vocabulary or math terminology that students have a hard time interpreting. This topic is part of a two part blog series on students with learning disabilities in math. In next week's blog I will share an interview that I did with a Phase II teacher who works directly with special needs learners in a self-contained classroom. She will offer insight along with ways that she differentiates instruction with the various academic learners in her classroom on a daily basis. Under this week's Intentional Toolkit, I have provided a few articles that provide insight on ways to identify as well as support students who struggle in math. As we advocate for our students let's continue to use best practices that are research based and yield positive results. This ultimately places our students on a path towards success! Until next time, go out there and be GREAT!
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