Is it possible to design learning that engages the vast majority of students in mathematics?
Unfortunately, many students come to dread math because of their experience in school. Even worse, they lose faith in themselves as learners. In many classrooms, there is a mismatch between what’s offered and what students need in order to become engaged, enthusiastic and proficient learners. This mismatch may actually be creating what’s commonly identified as mathematical learning disabilities.
Alberta Education contracted Dr. Sharon Friesen of the Galileo Educational Network to build from the findings of the other research paper in this website – Inside an Accessible Classroom – and apply observations from that study to a Grade 7 math class. Learning Mathematics in an Accessible Classroom determines how Universal Design for Learning principles increases mathematical proficiency and achievement for all students. Researchers wanted to ensure their designs for learning were flexible enough to accommodate a wide range of abilities, and that each task was carefully supported through activities that developed student understanding and mathematical proficiency. Students also had the opportunity to assess their own work in guiding their own understanding.
The result was that mathematical concepts were made accessible to all students. Even the classroom’s teacher, who struggled with the subject throughout her own schooling, found a way to break free from the traditional mathematical teaching script to engage her students with robust, connections-type problems they can identify in real-world situations. This study demonstrates how in a short period of time, even in a classroom with a relatively large amount of students with disabilities, everyone can achieve mathematical proficiency.