Category: classroom practice

Research Breakdown: Teaching Math to SwD during Emergency Remote Teaching

Just uploaded a preprint (before peer review, so not final!) of a study I did this spring with Rachel Schuck, a doc student at UCSB in Special Education. I was working on a research study on UDL with some exceptional special educators. After schools were closed, some of the teachers consented to a series of interviews about their experience teaching during Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT), which is not distance learning, since ERT was unplanned and during a crisis. This first article is focused on teaching math from the perspective of a special educator teaching in a self-contained 3-5th grade classroom. We have a second article which is focused on the experiences of teachers whose students have significant support needs.

Here is the abstract:

“This paper presents a case study of the experiences of a highly experienced special educator named Ms. Z teaching standards-based mathematics during Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT) during the spring of 2020. Pre-COVID, Ms. Z provided her students, all of whom had an IEP for Specific Learning Disabilities and/or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, daily opportunities to tackle challenging mathematical problems and taught self-regulation strategies for students to better understand themselves as learners. After the shift to ERT, Ms. Z described “the wall between us” as various digital barriers that made teaching online far more challenging than in person. Challenges included supporting students with productive struggle when not present with them, engaging students in mathematical talk, and creating accessible multi-modal materials. Another barrier was supporting student self-regulation. We analyze Ms. Z’s experience using Universal Design for Learning as the important themes spanned emotional and cognitive engagement, as well as strategic self-understanding. We include recommendations for engaging students with LD and/or ADHD in meaningful mathematical problem solving in ERT. Despite the “walls” in ERT, teachers must create meaningful relationships with students, provide opportunities for students to engage in mathematical talk, create accessible multi-modal materials, and support students to better understand themselves as learners.”

Please read the article for more. Here is just one juicy quotes by this exceptional teacher (fake name Ms. Z), with some of my thoughts that are not in the article. She describes how her first few Zooms in April were taken over by kids:

The first week I started off very just like, the kids wanted to talk to each other. It was hilarious. In one screen, you see somebody having their little cars zooming by and another one, somebody is holding up like five Pokemon cards, just switching through them. And another one, somebody’s got like a family picture. And I’m just like, you guys, you’re supposed to be listening. But they were just so excited to see each other. So we were just doing share outs.

You can see from what Ms. Z says that her students, all of whom have disabilities, wanted time and space to connect with their peers. So much so that they took over the Zoom for an old-fashioned share time. It really bothers me that so many students with disabilities are not being given equal access to synchronous learning on platforms like Zoom. I hear districts and teachers saying that they are not allowed to use Zoom because someone might see a student with an IEP on zoom and know that they have an IEP. Yes, privacy is a concern, but it is inequitable to deny students with disabilities the chance to socialize during a pandemic that is resulting is widespread social isolation and SIGNIFICANT mental health issues. Students with disabilities are already more likely to have anxiety or other emotional disabilities. We need to control privacy risks without discriminating against students with disabilities.

Ms. Z describes “the walls between us” as the barriers that distance and technology have put between her and her students. What walls are you dealing with? Your students dealing with?

Paper citation:

Lambert, R., & Schuck, R. (2020, September 2). “The wall now between us”; Teaching math to students with disabilities during the COVID spring of 2020 PREPRINT.

Research Breakdown: My article on how disability in mathematics is political, relational, emotional and complexly embodied (Lambert, 2019)

Part of my intention with this blog is to provide access for a wide audience on research into disability in the context of mathematics. Research is too inaccessible; hard to get the articles and hard to understand them even when you do get your hands on them! Today I want to return to an article I published a year ago in January 2019, which takes up some themes I have been thinking about since my dissertation in 2010. This paper took me nine years to write. If you can’t get access to ZDM, a European math ed journal, here is my final draft of the paper: Lambert 2019 ZDM_authorcopy

Basically, in this paper, I argue that-

  1. Emotions and relationships are central to mathematics learning and identification for everyone, but particularly so for marginalized groups in math. I focus particularly on students of color with disabilities. When you are marginalized in math class, made to feel lesser over time, you have feelings about that. Those feelings are part of how we construct our identities as math learners, as emotion layers over math experience. It affects every aspect of our mathematical learning. There is no learning outside emotion.
  2. Disability Studies (and Disability Studies in Education) are academic fields that study disability in terms of social construction, ableism, and a social justice standpoint towards disability. The most important thinking on disability has emerged from this tradition, shaped particularly by disabled scholars and activists. In this paper, I use the ideas of Tobin Siebers (2008) on complex embodiment and Alison Kafer (2013) on the political relational model of disability to conceptualize disability as complex, relational, political, and always embodied and felt.  Using these theoretical tools, I argue that neither the medical model nor the social model of disability (UPIAS, 1977) is complex enough to help us understand disability as experienced in schools.
  3. I use one young woman’s narratives, Desi (a pseudonym) about ADHD and Anxiety, as well as her label of Learning Disability, to explore how complex a kid’s construction of disability is. Her narratives increase our understanding of the theory, and vice-versa. I often use the word kid instead of student, because kid is more multi-dimensional.
  4. I argue in this paper that we need to include emotion in mathematical embodiment. For some reason, math ed scholars rarely do. Embodiment is the body, but not the mind. Using the idea of bodymind (Price, 2009), I argue that this is an artificial distinction and unhelpful.

Here is how I introduce Desi:

Twelve years old at the beginning of the study, Desi identified herself as a “girl” and “from the Dominican Republic.” Desi is bilingual in Spanish and English. Desi was a powerful social and moral force in both her sixth and her seventh-grade classrooms. In her eighth- grade year, I observed Desi delivering a bilingual poem that touched on her identity as Dominican, her sense that adults tried to control her in school, and her rejection of “labeling.” Her peers applauded her loudly, and I heard one boy say, “Desi is the best poet in the school.” Desi identified most clearly as a poet and an activist, one who did not see mathematics with the same passion as she did literacy. (Lambert, 2019, p. 284)

I hope you can feel in that description how absolutely amazing Desi was. It has taken me a long time to write about her narratives, mainly because I worried about portraying her point of view accurately. She is a complex human, including contradictions (like all of us!). This paper will not focus on how Desi makes sense of how her culture, gender, and languages matter in mathematics class, but I am currently working in a research collaborative to develop that analysis using new work on intersectionality and math ( Bullock 2018; Hernández-Saca et al., 2018). I found that I could not do that important work alone.

This particular paper focuses on how Desi makes sense of herself in terms of her disability identifications. This paper is not about whether she “has” ADHD, but how she thinks about ADHD, particularly in terms of her math learning. What is ADHD from the student perspective?

Tobin Siebers, a scholar of Disability Studies, introduces the idea of Complex Embodiment. I describe it here:

Siebers rejects both the purely social model, as lacking in attention to embodiment, and the medical model, which defines disability as individual and requiring medical intervention. Siebers defines disability as “a social location complexly embodied”(p. 14). In this formation, disability is not solely within the body, within impairment. Nor is disability a social construction. It is both, from the beginning. He pro- poses new ways of integrating social and bodily aspects of disability, particularly by proposing the concept of complex embodiment.

Complex embodiment allows for a particular kind of situated knowledge, one that “adheres in embodiment”(p. 23). Embodied knowledges are them- selves produced through cultural processes; language to describe our bodies does not spring from a neutral source. Thus when we describe a body, we use concepts formed in social worlds, which in turn shape our bodies. He calls for critique which maps the construction of ideology onto bodies: “precisely because ideologies are embodied, their effects are readable, and must be read, in the construction and history of societies”(p. 32). (Lambert, 2019, p. 282)

Basically— to understand how disability is embodied, we need to consider social worlds. How we talk about our bodies maps onto how we understand our own bodies. Before I go on, think about ADHD. How have you heard it described? By media, doctors, teachers? How do you think kids with ADHD come to understand their own difference? I hope this makes you wonder immediately how absolutely horrific it is that we make ADHD seem so negative. We provide the language that kids use to make sense of themselves. I have learned tons from those in my inner circle, my work settings, and my students who have taught me new ways to think about ADHD, ones that are not focused on negative ways of understanding oneself. But back to how this connects with math and Desi—Pay attention to how Desi describes ADHD in math class:

At one point her sixth-grade math class, Desi told me, “Normally I would be zooming out. We zoom out” during class. That was “why most of us like to sit next to the window,” cause then “I am in my own little planet” and “in my world.” Here we have a collective, embodied description of those who “zoom out.” That group, according to Desi was herself and a group of boys, who also had IEPs. Her description of zooming seemed entirely internal, as Desi didn’t move around during class, and her body was unusually still. Desi’s description of zooming as related to attention challenges normative concepts of ADHD, which stress an excess of energy or hyperactivity. (Lambert, 2019, p. 285)

Desi and her friends have made their own word- Zoomers. This feels much more positive (and descriptive) than other words they could have taken up, and describes how Desi talks about her own difference. Desi is not the kid that needs to move a lot, she stays pretty still in class. But her mind is always active, and she has to work hard to stay “on task” and with the rest of the class. Her brilliant mind, in other words, is busy zooming.

The problem is not the zooming, but how this works in her math class. Desi told me that her problem in math was paying attention the way teachers demanded it. I asked her “Who stands out in your math class?” (a great question to ask kids to learn what they value in other students). Desi named certain students as “good.” She told me how these students learned math:

Desi: They pay attention [gestures hands moving straight forward]. It is like they are a movie, or a computer, and they just suck it all in [gestures with hands around her brain], like a sponge, until they absorb every little piece of it [gestures grabbing tiny pieces of something in front of her]. (Lambert, 2019, p. 285)

Notice in the previous narrative how closely she relates ability to attention, beginning with “they pay attention.” The primary characteristic of the “good” math student is attention, and then memory, or being a “sponge.” Her final gesture suggests that the kids are sucking in things—understanding mathematical knowledge as isolated bits and pieces.

For Desi, ADHD is a way of being in the world, of zooming, which makes it really hard for her in math class because she sees math as memorization.  I didn’t really explore this in the academic article, but I wonder what Desi would have said if she had had more experience with meaningful mathematics, particularly connected to social justice, something she cared very much about. Her teacher, at the end of her 7th-grade year, told me that Desi needed a class where she could connect math to what matters, and then she would soar.

This is an example of complex embodiment because Desi constructs ADHD in the context of math learning using the materials of culture—the language that kids use to describe their learning is flavored by the language we use with them. Yet she also feels how feels to be a “zoomer” by the windows. Disability is both her own personal embodied experience, how she makes sense of that experience (using terms and concepts she has heard), and how her environment reacts to her disability (having trouble in a math class all about paying attention). So it is always both socially constructed and also real. Both. Always. Complex embodiment takes embodiment, experience, seriously.

The second theory I use to understand Desi’s narratives is the political relational theory, developed by Alison Kafer (2013). Kafer uses queer theory in tandem with disability theory to move beyond the binary of medical and social models of disability. Here is how I explain her theory of political relational, and how it relates to special education.

Disability is produced in interaction, always relational and political. Kafer inserts the political into her definition to speak back to the pervasive construction of disability as operating outside politics. We depoliticize disability when diagnosis is assumed to be scientific truth, even as these diagnoses shift over time, and if social issues are excluded from analysis of disability. For example, traditional special educational research tends to label DS as “ideological,” and its own work as “pragmatic” (Brantlinger 1997). Instead of understanding all constructs of disability as embedded in political contexts, special education claims a non-ideological position, outside of culture. However, disability is always political and implicated in relationships of power; Kafer asks, “How is the category of disability used to justify the classification, supervision, segregation and oppression of certain people, bodies, and practices?”(p. 9). Special education is a system designed to do just that: classify, remediate and segregate students based on particular conceptions of disabilities (Linton 1998). With the word relational, Kafer reminds us that the political is not situated in impersonal institutions, but interactions with other people. The work of the special education system is done by individuals whose role is to notice and report disability. (Lambert, 2019, p. 283)

This is pretty radical stuff. Kafer is suggesting that ableism is carried out by us, through our participation in an unjust system, including how we routinely rank and sort kids as math teachers. Disability is both interpersonal and systematic. And we as teachers operate within those systems, and our relationships with kids are impacted by our participation in an ableist system.

Desi breaks that system down. Here, she is explaining to me how low expectations impact her:

Desi: It’s like they feel like, you have to be able to be this or that, and even if you have a disability like, cause, I have ADHD or something, some people say, that they are amazed at the fact that I can actually learn and pay attention and try to pay attention when it is, like, hard for me. (Lambert, 2019, p. 286)

Desi tells her story as if she is talking to “them”- some group of anonymous people who saw success in mathematics as innate: “you have to be able to be this or that.” In the middle of the narrative, she used her own ADHD as an example. These unnamed individuals seemed to be surprised that Desi can achieve in school. Desi suggested that these unnamed critics believe that ability is fixed and that those who have a disability are incapable of learning. She strongly disagreed, and then expanded on this theme, again emphasizing the role of effort.

Desi: And then many people are always just like, has to do with abilities that you have and it has to do with the fact that you have to be like, if you are not good at this you are not good at it, and if you are not good at it at all then you have to be like in special ed or something and I am like, no, that’s a lie. You can do it, it’s just that you are not putting in the effort.

Desi referred to a narrow conception of mathematical ability: either you are “good at it” or not. She suggested that some believe that mathematical ability is static, creating a binary between those who are good, and those “in special ed.” For Desi, separation into special education is tied to the notion of innate ability in mathematics. Both times that Desi used formal disability discourse in this narrative she added, “or something,”(“ADHD or something” and “special ed or something”), suggesting distance from medical terms for disability. Desi critiqued the theory of innate ability in mathematics, taking up an alternative voice from her classroom teacher—effort alone determines academic success. Desi appears to take issue not with the naming of disability, but the use of such categories to separate learners in categories of capable and not.

These narratives attest to the relational construction of disability. Desi never posited that ADHD does not exist, she questioned the low expectations and segregation that accompanied labels. She critiqued not disability, but institutional structures that seek to separate out those with disabilities from the rest of the students. For Desi, these arguments are deeply relational, as she told them through stories of an argument with a friend, animated by voices from multiple points of view. This politics of disability is embodied, lived, felt through relationships. (Lambert, 2019, p. 287)

I hope these two stories, and Desi’s powerful narratives, have helped you think about how complex disability is. We can’t think of it just through the medical model- just a problem within Desi. But neither can we think about just with a social model of disability- it is not just the system doing this to Desi. It is more complicated than that. A simple binary will never work. Disability is both socially constructed and real- felt powerfully by people. This is why I argue for emotion to be considered within embodiment— we need to understand not just Desi’s attentional differences, but how those feel to her, and how she is made to feel by math classrooms that invalidate her experience or unique set of strengths.

We have a lot of work to do in math education to better understand how disability matters in our classrooms. I think we need to 1) listen to kids, particularly kids of color, about their own experience, 2) learn from fields like Disability Studies, which offer a great deal in terms of theory from the perspective of disabled people, and 3) constantly pay attention to emerging voices, particularly those that build an understanding of disability from non-white perspectives. I am working now in a research collaborative to develop our understandings of how intersectionality affects the emotional experience of math class, including the development of math identities in the context of race, language use, genders, and more. I am hoping there will be a Desi Part II which presents her narratives in these areas. Again, this kind of analysis takes time, and in this case, it will take collaboration.

One final note: Desi had participated in a unit on disability studies in her sixth-grade year. It seemed to help her develop this political orientation to disability. I would urge schools and teachers to teach disability, not through a medical model, not through simulations (which devalue the experience of disabled people), but through sharing the stories and perspectives of disabled people, through the history of social activism by people with disabilities, and new movements like Disability Justice (Sins Invalid).

Read the full article for more!

Cites and related readings:

Brantlinger, E. (1997). Using ideology: Cases of nonrecognition of the politics of research and practice in special education. Review of Educational Research, 67(4), 425–459.

Bullock, E. C. (2018). Intersectional Analysis in Critical Mathematics Education Research: A Response to Figure Hiding. Review of Research in Education, 42(1), 122–145.

Hernández-Saca, D. I., Kahn, L. G., & Cannon, M. A. (2018). Intersectionality Dis/ability Research: How Dis/ability Research in Education Engages Intersectionality to Uncover the Multidimensional Construction of Dis/abled Experiences. Review of Research in Education, 42(1), 286–311.

Kafer, A. (2013). Feminist, Queer, Crip. Indiana University Press.
Price, M. (2009). “Her Pronouns Wax and Wane”: Psychosocial Disability, Autobiography, and Counter-Diagnosis. Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies, 3(1), 11–33.
Siebers, T. (2008). Disability theory. University of Michigan Press.

Getting real about the challenges of differentiation

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post by   (@ablinstein) about a challenging class she is teaching. I love a post that begins with a real challenge, a problem that needs to be solved. She writes about a high school class that includes multiple grades, skill levels, and previous experiences with math. While typically successful in focusing her classroom around collaborative group work (using Thinking Classrooms), this class challenges her. She notices that the kids are disengaging from group work, and hears complaints that the class is moving both too fast and too slow.

Anyone who has taught has faced this challenge. This challenge is particularly common when we teach based on lectures, but that is not the case here- Anna has designed her classroom around best practices of group work and rich tasks. Other classes are working with a range of learners, but this one is not. While she is not writing specifically about students with disabilities, this post is a test case of the “good teaching is good teaching” myth. I believe that both “students need to be tracked, students with disabilities need different math” and “just put them together, good teaching is good teaching” belie how challenging it is to teach a wide range of learners.

So what does she do? According to this post, she does a tremendous amount, some of which is supported by already existing research, and some of which is innovative and should be researched. She writes

Some suggestions that I implemented that seemed to make a difference:

  • Taking a break from random groups to help students regain their trust that the class would meet their needs; doing some work in pairs designed to foster productive collaboration; allowing students choice as to who to work with while also asking them to work with different students at times; being explicit when the goal of a task was to build collaborative skills

I love that she writes here about trust, knowing that her job is to gain the trust of kids, not just in her as a teacher, but in her ability to organize a class that will work for them. She offers more options for engagement for kids in this class, individual, pair, and group, offering additional choice in whom they work with. She makes it clear that goals are not always content-focused. If this sounds a lot like UDL (Universal Design for Learning), you are right. She is building flexibility and choice into her classroom.

Structuring activities so there was time at the start for individual exploration before asking students to share their thinking with others thus giving more processing time for students who worked more slowly; circulating and helping some students get started; building more optional challenge into tasks for students who worked very quickly or who had already had prior experience with a topic; creating tasks that could be approached with a greater variety of methods and building more writing into tasks so that different ways of thinking mathematically could be valued

This paragraph is a master class in creating an inclusive classroom in math. Thinking time is super important, particularly as for many neurodiverse learners, processing time is perhaps the fundamental difference from their peers. If class rushes past them, they don’t have the time to engage to their potential. Building in an optional challenge is a great way to engage students who don’t need that time- I think we should spend more time talking about how to do that so that students who work faster are offered opportunities to think deeply, not just move on to the next topic. She writes about creating rich, multi-leveled tasks, and basically notes that she had to be more careful about the tasks being multi-leveled as her class was more heterogeneous in terms of skill level. She looks to her tasks, rather than to deficits in the kids, as a point of change.

Meeting students where they were to regain trust and buy-in; this included at times splitting the class into two groups (students chose which group to join) – a more free-form exploratory group with more open and challenging problems and a more structured group where students would get some problems to activate prior knowledge and smaller, more concrete problems that would build over time to greater generalization and abstraction and more teacher guidance and reassurance that they were on the right track

This is a great strategy, and very UDL, as it is focused on students making the choices about how they learn, rather than a teacher doing the categorizing and sorting into differentiation groups. I would love to hear more about how these groups worked, and how students responded to them. Also, did students always pick the same groups? Did it vary by topic?

Noticing struggling students’ successes and highlighting them publicly; selecting which students would share their thinking to make sure that different voices could be heard over time

Here we see the important insights from Complex Instruction about status treatments, particularly important when working to establish status for kids with less status in heterogeneous environments.

Make sure to leave time for synthesis and practice problems (at different levels) during class – this helped address student concerns that they were leaving class with lots of questions and feeling unsettled about the concepts they had explored that day

Giving students more feedback during class about their understanding of a topic rather than relying more heavily on groupwork and self-assessment for students to know how they were doing and what might be helpful next steps

Here, she attends to making sure that students leave the class feeling secure in new knowledge. She attends to synthesis. Feedback is a critical element of learning, with kind of an unfortunate name that suggests a computational model of learning. But feedback is really getting human interaction around your work, to see what you think mirrored in another, and can be particularly important when coming from the teacher, since our kids (mostly!) value what we think about what they think. It makes our kids feel valued.

Providing more problems at different levels and helping students navigate which problems might be more helpful for them to do during/after a particular lesson – here is an example of a tiered homework problem set.

I love this example of a tiered homework problem set. It begins by laying out the essentials, then gives problems that are Important, Interesting, and Challenging. I love that these are not reducible to Easy, Medium and For The Smart Kids. The first set is Important, which is why you should do them.

This post helps us build on the important work of Complex Instruction, layering in practices that allow kids to learn in their Zone of Proximal Development, making choices about their own learning, which leads to increased meta-cognition.

Yes, as Anna notes, this is an unsustainable amount of work.  Yes, this is a tremendous amount of work, but the structures that you put into place are repeatable. That lovely homework, for example, is now made! Can departments, can the #MTBOS share these kinds of differentiated assignments?  UDL is meant to solve problems, and then to help save you work, to build flexible supports into classrooms as a key aspect of design, not afterthought.

And this post is a perfect example of UDL in action. Here, she views curriculum and pedagogy as the problem, not the kids. She takes up a problem-solving attitude, working to redesign the classroom around the edges. This classroom redesign is not about the mythical middle, but working to make the class work for those who are on the edges, both needing more time and less, etc. The redesign builds in choice and flexibility as the primary tool to accomplish that.



Counting Collections and Inclusion

I love Counting Collections. As a classroom teacher, I would always have my students count everything in the classroom, differentiating based on what number set they needed. We would work on representing numbers, and we would use charts to represent groups of ten, pushing understanding of place value. We didn’t call it Counting Collections, but a similar practice. I always saw it as a great activity for a class where kids were learning to count very different number sets, since I could easily differentiate within the context of counting. But now I don’t have to write that post, since Heidi Fessenden () recently wrote the best one ever. It is a beautiful post about her work with counting collections and students with disabilities and inclusion. Read it! It is beautiful!

Counting Collections: One Nearly-Perfect Answer to Inclusion

Her post highlights several critical features of great mathematics teaching for inclusion. First, throughout the piece, she frames her own work as a problem-solver, not as a expert, not as someone who has already figured it out. Heidi writes how difficult it has been to figure out how to include students with autism, who need additional scaffolds and support, into a general education mathematics routine. That attitude, having a problem-solver approach, is how she IS able to include all children in beautiful, collaborative learning. She tries, and if she fails, she thinks, she problem-solves, and she tries again. She provides kids with partners, and understands that both partners will learn, not just the child with the disability. Heidi incorporates collaboration, broadening the concept of learning beyond the individual. She provides scaffolds, like a visual schedule for the counting collection. I also love how she learned to not micromanage! Students with disabilities, particularly autism, are often micromanaged to within an inch of their lives. They are offered very little space to think, to grow, and to make choices. Heidi gave them space, gave them scaffolds, and let them count!



Developing meaningful mathematics goals for IEPs

In the last few months, several educators have asked me some variant of the following question:

How do we shift students’ IEP goals from rote memorization to meaningful mathematics?

IEP goals are the heart of instruction for students with disabilities. In my experience, a narrow goal can contribute to all sorts of unintended consequences for a child’s mathematics. Continue reading “Developing meaningful mathematics goals for IEPs”

Concrete Representational Abstract (CRA) in mathematics

In response to a Twitter inquiry, I decided to write up some longstanding thoughts on the Concrete Representational Abstract (CRA) sequence that is popular particularly in designing instruction for learners with disabilities. First, what is CRA? Here, from a researcher who done several studies on CRA with students with disabilities in mathematics: Continue reading “Concrete Representational Abstract (CRA) in mathematics”

CGI and special education

As I read the conference program for the CGI (Cognitively Guided Instruction) Conference  coming up this weekend in LA, I was reminded that while math education typically doesn’t include kids with disabilities, CGI has always been an exception. There are several great presentations this week that focus on kids with disabilities doing mathematics, including ones by Jeannie Behrend and Lio Moscardini whose research is discussed below. Here is a quick round-up of CGI research articles that included kids with disabilities (all these articles seem to focus on learning disabilities, which means that we need more work on CGI with other disability categories). Continue reading “CGI and special education”

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Universal Design for Learning (CAST, 2011) was inspired by Universal Design in architecture.  If you design for people with disabilities before you built the house, it can be more accessible, less expensive, and more beautiful.  UDL applies that theory to learning.  Beginning with the premise that variability is what all learners share, curriculum should be designed to work for the widest variety of learners possible.  Continue reading “Universal Design for Learning (UDL)”


A great introduction to mindset from Jo Boaler.

Mindset is incredibly important for kids with disabilities in mathematics.  Too often, kids with disabilities are given the impression that they lack the ability to do complex mathematics.  And, perversely, when kids are labeled LD, they are often told that they are “smart” but their brains are not “wired” to read easily, or do mathematics easily.  In this sense, we are constructing fixed mindsets for kids.  We tell them that kids with LD are smart, and that their abilities in some areas are fixed at a high level, and their abilities in other areas are fixed at a low level. When we know how destructive fixed ability mindsets can be, why do we purposely create them in kids with LD? Continue reading “Mindset”