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Jerry Webster

Meeting Math Challenges

By December 29, 2012

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Most students receiving special education services have reading disabilities.  Still, I have found that some students with specific learning disabilities also have difficulties with math.  They may have short term memory issues, or they may have executive function challenges that prevent them from following through on multi-step problem solving.

Too often, we are willing to accept supports that too easily become "crutches," like counting fingers and "Touch Math." For some children, Touch Math is essential.  Unfortunately, we don't always try to get our students to approach fluency with math, even through these skills are critical for future success.  I have also found, in a self contained setting, that we don't always follow the curriculum, settling for "dumbed down" functional math.

If we can use the tools laid out in the general education curriculum to build number sense and teach strategies to solve math problems, we should.  I've spent time learning more about "number talks" and other strategies introduced in our curriculum to support number sense and meet the "procedural standards" established in the Common Core State Standards.

I have added an article to explain "subitizing," a skill that many students pick up naturally, but our students can learn with enough support.  It also provides another avenue to help our students approach math fluency, but learning to visualize patterns in numbers and "compose and decompose" larger numbers.  I have also added an article on "Ten Frames," a tool that is part of "number talks" that can help students struggling with one to one correspondence and magnitude better visualize numbers.

Both of these tools are part of the math series my district uses, but are also recommended by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Yes, in some ways the new "algorithms" for multi-digit multiplication and long division only confuse students with disabilities, but I believe that these tools can help support our students build math skills.


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