For the majority of my teaching career I have had a specific interest in teaching mathematics. As a result, I have identified many successful strategies that have been proven to be effective in helping students with mathematical learning difficulties to succeed.
The first and foremost important strategy in teaching mathematics to special education students is repetition. The more students are exposed to material, the more likely they are to remember it. A good way to do this is by having the students do a daily math journal in which they complete problems that have done earlier in the year. I have my students answer two questions every day when they enter my classroom. The questions always relate to math problems previously done. This is a great way to refresh their memory and help with remembering the facts.
Another important strategy that I use when working with a special ed student is teaching the student based on his or her prior knowledge. Each student knows a variety of information. I have had students that have learned how to do specific problems in a different way than other students. When teaching, I split the students into groups based on what they know. There are some different ways in which answers can be found, and I find that it is best not to dwell on the process but to focus on the product.
Accommodations are also very important when teaching mathematics. Each student may need different personalized accommodations that will help him or her to be more successful. Below are common accommodations used for mathematics:
- Use of a calculator
- Modified homework assignments
- Alternate homework assignments
- Repetition and remodeling of concepts taught
- Extended time to complete tests and quizzes
- Use of manipulatives
I find it very beneficial to allow students time in class to work on their homework. Many students with mathematical learning difficulties have a hard time remembering not only the content being taught, but how to use it in context. I always allow my students at least five minutes to start their homework. This not only helps with homework completion, but also allows me to check it to see if they really understand the concept and are able to apply it.
Math games are a great way in which students can apply their math skills by doing something fun. There are many games available, but simple things like math BINGO can be such a good motivator for math. I also give the students a few numbers and they have to make them equal what you tell them.
When teaching students with mathematical learning difficulties, it is important to remember that each student is different and learns differently. That is why it is so important to teach math using differentiation, meaning teach to the students the way that they learn. Most students learn math the best when it is hands-on. Try to find activities and projects that the students can do; teacher’s manuals have a variety of activities that the students can use. Use manipulatives whenever possible.
The last strategy that works extremely well with students is giving them individual whiteboards. This allows all students to respond and receive instant feedback about whether they understand the concept. The teacher can then adjust the instruction as necessary.
Teaching mathematics to students with learning difficulties has always been my passion. I have found that the more fun we have when learning, the better the students learn. If you have other strategies to offer, be sure to leave them in the comments section below.