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Making Math Accessible to Students With Special Needs (Grades 9-12)

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The purpose of Making Math Accessible to Students With Special Needs is to support everyone involved in mathematics education to become confident and competent with mathematics instruction and assessment so that 99% of students will be able to access enrolled grade-level mathematics. Six chapters address topics critical to effective mathematical instruction such as federal and state legislation, research-based instructional best practices in mathematics, and the selection, administration, and evaluation of accommodations for instruction and assessment. These topics are combined to offer teachers understandable, practical instructional procedures. The resource guides readers through the 5E instructional model, which provides an array of choices and strategies for providing high-quality instruction to all students. This resource actively engages readers through reflections and tasks in each chapter and can be used as a self-study professional development or as a group book study. Sample answers to tasks and reflections are found in the appendix, along with additional supports.

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Chapter 1: Why Do We Need to Make Mathematics Accessible to All Students?

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Chapter1 Why Do We Need to Make Mathematics Accessible to All Students?

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? . . . Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. . . . And as we let our own light shine, we consciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.—Marianne Williamson

Reflection 1.1Please respond to the following questions. Write from your heart, your beliefs, and your past experience. Then compare your responses to those on page 137.1. �Who are the students in your classes who are not succeeding at mathematics? How would you describe them?2. Is it possible for all students to learn mathematics with understanding?  

Chapter 2: Creating a Supportive Classroom Environment

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Chapter2: Creating a Supportive Classroom Environment
As long as the differences and diversities of mankind exist, democracy must allow for compromise, for accommodation, and for the recognition of differences.—Eugene McCarthy

Reflection 2.1 Please respond to the following questions. Write from your heart, your beliefs, and your past experience. Then compare your responses to those on page 138.1. How would you describe a supportive classroom environment?2. How important is a supportive environment for student success? Research supports the idea that the classroom environment influences students’ ideas about the causes of success in learning mathematics and consequently influences students’ levels of performance, effort, and persistence (Wigfield & Eccles, 2000; Pintrich & Schunk, 1996). Students achieve when they believe that their effort and persistence leads to mathematical understanding. Success begets success.Additional research indicates that parent and teacher attitudes and involvement affect student achievement in mathematics (Cotton & Wikelund)  

Chapter 3: Understanding High-Quality, Effective Instruction

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Chapter3: Understanding High-Quality,Effective Instruction

Right now we have this little anecdote that goes out that says all children can learn. And everybody really ascribes belief in that.But the problem with that is that that’s only half of the equation.The other half of the equation is all children can learn if adults provide high quality instruction.—Anthony Alvarado

In order to address the conceptual focus of mathematics required for all students, we must implement high-quality instruction. Reforms such as those carried out by former superintendent Anthony Alvarado in NewYork City’s District 2, starting in 1987, have been hailed by education experts as pioneering efforts at districtwide reform and landmark events in the decades-long effort to improve America’s schools. Charged with improving the achievement levels of the district’s lowest-performing students, Alvarado focused on radically improving the quality of instruction at his schools. He invested heavily in teacher training and sought the best educational practices worldwide.    

Chapter 4: Accomodating Mathematics for Students With Special Needs

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Chapter4 Accommodating Mathematics for Students With Special Needs

Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.—Albert Einstein

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2000, pp. 12–14) established the following as its equity principle: “High expectations and worthwhile opportunities for all, accommodating differences to help everyone learn mathematics, and providing resources and support for all classrooms and students.”Accommodations are practices and procedures of presentation, response, setting, and timing or scheduling that provide equitable access during instruction and assessment. Accommodations are tools that assist students in accessing the curriculum, just as eyeglasses or corrective lenses allow many people to access written material.Modifications are changes in the content and/or curriculum and performance expectations. Only after implementing high-quality, effective instruction and trying all appropriate accommodations in the classroom should modifying the grade-level expectations be even considered. Data reflecting that the student is incapable of accessing grade-level mathematics, along with the list and results of documented quality accommodations tried, are critical in making the decision to modify the curriculum for a student. Modifications or changes to the curriculum can only be made through an individualized education program (IEP) committee and must be recorded in an IEP document.  

Chapter 5: The 5E Instructional Model

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Chapter 5: The 5E Instructional Model

Students must learn mathematics with understanding, actively building new knowledge from experience and prior knowledge.—National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.—Isaac Newton

An effective lesson that provides the most impact on student achievement ensures that students are actively engaged in learning as well as reflecting on their learning to make sense of the activities. Learning something new or understanding something familiar in greater depth involves making sense of both our prior experiences and firsthand knowledge gained from new explorations. An effective lesson provides opportunities to use, extend, and apply what is learned.The Five E (5E) instructional model is a research-based lesson cycle that has been shown to increase student achievement. The 5E model was originally developed as a framework for developing inquiry-based lessons for science educators. However, because mathematics educators are embracing an inquiry approach to mathematics instruction, the 5E model can be used to implement high-quality, effective instruction for mathematics as well.  

Chapter 6: Creating and Adapting Lessons for High-Quality Instruction

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Chapter 6: Creating and Adapting Lessons for High-Quality Instruction

The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.—Franklin D. Roosevelt

Traditional textbook lessons present several concerns. The lesson format generally lends itself to teacher-centered instruction instead of student-centered instruction. The content of standard textbook lessons rarely includes examples and problems with the cognitive rigor necessary to prepare students for success—whether success is measured by standardized tests or readiness for post–high school education or careers.Such lessons seldom include strategies for building common background, developing vocabulary, providing comprehensibility, and solving authentic problems in an atmosphere ripe for interaction. Therefore, teachers often face the challenge of creating lessons or adapting textbook lessons to meet the needs of students with special needs. Adapting a textbook lesson to create high-quality instruction involves a few subtle but important changes. Let’s take a look at a typical textbook lesson (see fig. 6.1, pages 120–121).  

Appendix A: Responses to Tasks and Reflections

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Appendix A 
MAKING MATH ACCESSIBLE TO STUDENTS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
 Three categories—learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, and other health impairments—make up over 70 percent of the students with special needs. The challenge lies in finding the strategies that work so that 99 percent of all students can access and become proficient at grade-level mathematics.Reflection 1.31. It is impossible to predict what any student is capable of accomplishing. Many world leaders were struggling students, for example, Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy, andWinston Churchill.2. It is critical to give every student the opportunity to master mathematics. Our instructional decisions can facilitate or hinder this process. Offering those opportunities through instructional best practices is key.3. As more students with special needs are placed in general education classes, instruction must change to meet these needs.Task 1.2Answers will vary.Reflection 2.11. A supportive classroom environment is characterized by high expectations and support for all students. It is an environment in which students feel safe to take risks and ask for and give help.  

Appendix B: Reproducibles for Lesson in Chapter 5

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