You are on page 1of 5

“Not everyone learns the same way,” is a statement that I have regularly used throughout my teaching career.

An explanation, website or process that worked for one student may or may not work with other students. This is one of the more challenging parts of being a teacher and having numerous tools in your mythological “teacher tool belt” is one way to help overcome these obstacles. However, traditional tools may or may not work for students with difficulties and because of that, there is an entire new “teacher tool belt” that educators need to develop to help those students perform to the best of their abilities. While every situation and student is unique, getting a general idea of what my students were actually going can help you determine what resources would be best. Below is a brief description of mathematical difficulties as well as a few resources that could be helpful. Students with Cognitive Difficulties Hill (2008) created a table in the article Cognitive Skills and Math summarizing relationship that were made by Geary (2004) between various cognitive mechanisms and deficits in math ability.

Cognitive mechanisms
Language systems

Math deficit
Information representation, as in articulating number words. Information manipulation as during the act of counting. Representations of conceptual knowledge, such as number magnitudes and information in a spatial form (as in a chart). Using procedures during problem solving.

Working memory

Visual-spatial processing

Attentional and inhibitory processes (executive controls)

After seeing this chart and getting a better understanding of what our students might be dealing with can definitely help an educator. However, the cognitive difficulties can be described even further. According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities website, “Dyscalculia refers to a wide range of lifelong learning disabilities involving math. There is no single type of math disability. Dyscalculia can vary from person to person. And, it can affect people differently at different stages of life.” The website further described how visual-spatial and language processing difficulties are a part of dyscalculia. Both of these elements are used extensively within mathematics and because of that students can have numerous challenges throughout their academic career. Most of these issues relate back to math facts, number sense and the ability to self check and find alternate ways to solve problems.

There are some low-tech solutions in math that can be used to help students with dyscalculia. Graph paper for organizing or using estimation to begin solving math problems. Pollak (2009) made the suggestion for, “Mathematics Support Centres where students can receive help. A few of these centres now provide specialist one-to-one support for students with dyscalculia, which can be tailored to their individual needs. …the student needs to be reassured and put at ease as they are very likely to be anxious.” There are also high-tech solutions that are available. The National Center for Learning Disabilities has several resources available with one of them being a link to a table of assistive technology tools for students who struggle with math from the Georgia Department of Education ( One of the websites given to help students with cognitive difficulties is This website is designed to give students an electronic note book of “tips and hints” to help them be successful when faced with cert ain algebra problems that will come up throughout the course. Continuing with the one-to-one high-tech help, an “oldie but a goodie” is Within this website are guides to help students with topics ranging from Prealgebra all the way to Calculus BC II. These resources, and many others, can be used by everyone within the classroom without drawing attention to themselves and making them potentially feel socially awkward in their classes. Students with Physical Difficulties Depending on the physical difficulty can go a long way to determining what efforts need to be made in order to give the student the best chance to succeed. The classroom should be flexible enough in order to accommodate the student. Kunc (1981) describes a Press Board as a, “device to help a student who cannot hold a ruler still while drawing a line, as in doing geometry problems. Device made with a plexiglass ruler suspended above a piece of board (such as plywood) by a spring on a bolt at each end. The student slips the book or paper to be drawn on under the ruler in the correct position then pushes down on the ruler, which holds the paper and the ruler in place.” However, with iPads and touch screens increasing in popularity, there is an adjustable touch screen stylus from available. With an enlarged screen on the touchpad device, this tool could be used by those who range from temporary to severe physical difficulties depending on the situation. Students with Sensory Difficulties A great website for all kinds of devices to help with any difficulties that students might be faced with is For those with visual difficulties, this website showcased the Math Window® from Math Window® is a math teaching tool that uses magnetic tiles on a conveniently-sized work surface. There is a normal print size as well as large print and Braille. Also available are higher algebra levels and geometry kits that can be purchased separately. In math classes a calculator is often needed. With students who are

blind or have poor vision, a talking calculator might be a device that they need. Woerner (2002) talks about how the TI-66 was programmable and could talk to the user ever since it first came out in 1991 for $595. Since then, handheld talking calculators apps can be purchased from the Asternina Development Team through This $1.68 app has voice recognition in several languages and has all the scientific features that are in a normal scientific calculator. Also, it is on your mobile device which is a lot easier and more discrete with that the TI-66. At-risk students Roblyer & Doering (2012) describe at-risk students as individuals whose, “…lack of success in school often parallels the low performance of students with disabilities.” One of their main difficulties is lack of motivation to engage in school work. Working with these kinds of students for many years, I have found that website such as can be engaging to these at risk students and help them with the mathematical concepts that are being explored in the classroom. This website is free, mapped with the Common Core and can be used in traditional, blended and “flipped” learning settings. However, if something more from a website is what you are looking for, online programs such as VmathLive ™ ( or ALEKS® ( are artificially intelligence based online computer programs that lets the students move at their own pace. No body’s learning is the same so the computer programs analyze the student’s responses, both correct and incorrect, and guide the student through the mathematical concepts when the student is ready to learn that material. These computer programs can continuously assess materials throughout the entire program to make sure that “something in Chapter 1” is still remembered b y the students later on the in the program. The results are immediate and have a “hook” that keeps almost all of the students engaged throughout the course. Gifted and Talented students While most of the specific and direct instruction has been geared towards students with difficulties, it is important that we do not forget about our students who are gifted and talented. The Wisconsin State Statues § 118.35 says that, “‘[G]ifted and talented pupils’ means pupils enrolled in public schools who give evidence of high performance capability in intellectual, creative, artistic, leadership or specific academic areas and who need services or activities not ordinarily provided in a regular school program in order to fully develop such capabilities.” Usually this “evidence of high performance capability” is discovered through testing at several levels throughout the student’s years in grade school and middle school. With several local, state and national resources available to “fully develop” the capabilities of these students, the following are just a few that are available to educators. The National Association for Gifted Children’s website has several great online ideas for math. One of them is called “Figure This!” ( which is sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and features math challenges designed to get families working together to solve over 80 math-based problems. Another great website is

called Ask Dr. Math @ Drexel University ( This website has a huge collection of math questions and topics as well as a section where you can also submit your own questions and see what other students are asking! This is a great way to realize that your question is not “dumb” or “stupid” when other people are not afraid to ask their questions and received help. Both of these websites are great for those moments that make you go “Hmmmm…I wonder about this” or those lovely “What if this?” questions. It also showcases how math is really all around you in every moment of your life! As the Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted website reminds on their homepage, “…gifted kids are much more than just test scores. We celebrate you in all your uniqueness.” Whether a student has a cognitive, physical or sensory difficulty, or is at -risk or gifted and talented, all of our students are unique! We as educators should make every attempt possible at creating the best possible environment for our students to do well. With all of these devices, apps and other technological advances being made available to the education world every day, the future has never looked brighter for all of our students!

Resources Anonymous. (n.d.). Adjustable Touch Screen Stylus. In Retrieved July 20, 2013 from Anonymous. (n.d.). ALEKS®. In Retrieved July 30, 2013 from Anonymous. (n.d.). In Retrieved July 30, 2013 from Anonymous. (n.d.). Ask Dr. Math®. In Retrieved July 30,2013 from Anonymous. (n.d.). Assistive Technology Devices. In Retrieved July 30, 2013 from Anonymous. (n.d.). Brain POP. In Retrieved July 30, 2013 from Anonymous. (n.d.) CHAPTER 118 GENERAL SCHOOL OPERATIONS. In Retrieved July 30, 2013 from Anonymous. (n.d.). Content Connections. In Retrieved July 30, 2013 from

Anonymous. (n.d.). Education. In Retrieved July 30, 2013 from ksectionid=19327 Anonymous. (n.d.). Figure This! Math Challenges for Families. In Retrieved July 30, 2013 from Anonymous. (n.d.). GIFTED TALENTED LINKS AND ADDRESSES. In Retrieved July 30, 2013 from Anonymous. (n.d.). Math Window®. In Retrieved July 30, 2013 from Anonymous. (n.d.). MATH WINDOW BRAILLE GEOMETRY KIT. In Retrieved July 30, 2013 from ductid=208203&trail=22,11436,11515&discontinued=0 Anonymous. (n.d.). VmathLive™. In Retrieved July 30, 2013 from Anonymous. (n.d.). Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted. In Retrieved July 30, 2013 from Asterina Development Team. (September 24, 2012). Vocal Scientific Calculator. In Retrieved July 30. 2013 from Kunc, N. (1981). Ready, willing, and disabled. Toronto: Personal Library. Geary, D. (January 01, 2004). Mathematics and Learning Disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 37, 1, 4-15. Hill, B. (September 21, 2008). Cognitive Skills and Math. In Retrieved July 30, 2013 from NCLD Editorial Team. (n.d.). What is Dyscalculia? In Retrieved July 30, 2013 from Pollak, D. (2009). Neurodiversity in higher education: Positive responses to specific learning differences. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell. Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, Aaron H. (2012). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching + Myeducationlab With Pearson Etext. Allyn & Bacon. SparkNotes Editors. (n.d.). SparkNote Math. In Retrieved July 30, 2013, from Wisconsin., & Wisconsin. (1900). The updated Wisconsin statutes & annotations. Madison, Wis: Revisor of Statutes Bureau. Woerner, J. (February 23, 2002). Texas Instruments TI-66 Calcu-Talk. In Retrieved July 30, 2013 from