Sunday, September 11, 2011

Call for help

I just wrote the email below and then realized that I could ask all of you for ideas too!


This year I am teaching a new course called Learning Skills for students with significant learning disabilities.  They're mostly on the autism spectrum but some have other diagnoses.  In the past this course has been taught by a special education teacher alone, and they only did very basic math, pretty much just practicing addition.  The goal, though, is for these students to pass MCAS (but probably not until they are juniors or seniors).  I tried to google some basic math pre-tests to get a sense of what they know.  The first problem asked students to add the numbers 12, 6, 3, 8, 5, 14, 15 and 7, thinking about a way to make adding them easier.  Some were overwhelmed and skipped it, others turned to a calculator, still others added incorrectly and those who did add correctly didn't notice the pairs that add to 10 or 20.  The second problem gave data to make a bar graph from and they did that successfully.  I had anticipated using resources from when I taught pre-algebra, but I don't think we'll be able to use many of those until second semester at the earliest.  Which means I'm a bit lost.

My intuition is to focus on problem solving skills (habits of mind) and find interesting ways to drill basic computation.  For example, I remember a cool problem from one of my grad school classes that involved multiplying pairs of numbers on a number line and seeking patterns as you changed the pairs systematically. 

I would love to hear any book or resource recommendations you can offer.

Thanks so much!


  1. Hi Tina,

    You may have already found this, but does this article shed any knew light on what you have already discovered?

    My experience with those on the autism spectrum: super-clear structure, super-clear goals, less verbal, more visual. But there's still a lot of variation within the spectrum. I hope it helps.

  2. Thanks, that was a good reminder of the things I need to keep in mind. I see a trip to the store for more manipulatives in my future!

  3. Tina, I like Bill's insights on this. I am finding that celebrating successes is extremely important with my students who are similar to yours (all students, of course too). I don't have specific recommendations, but one thing that is working very well for me this year having every student have a set of thin multi-colored pens. I got a small grant for this at the end of last year and bought really nice extra-fine colored pens. Right now, we're adding integers on the number line and I had them color code each problem they did (one color for + numbers, another color for - numbers, and a third color for zero). We have slowly started to have discussions about patterns they are seeing, but the colors seem to really help them focus on the why positive + negative (blue + red, for example)sometimes has a blue solution and sometimes has a red solution and sometimes a green (zero) solution. (you get the idea...) We are color coding things in our notes, and finding a way to use the colored pens nearly every day to see patterns. They love it and it seems to keep them a lot more detail-oriented on their work.

  4. Way cool. We did a number line activity where we colored multiples of a certain number the same color and looked for patterns. It was great to be able to really see what was happening. I will totally use that with the positives and negatives, thanks!


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