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ESTs for Teaching Algebra?

Your kid hates math class. Chances are, if your child has a learning disability (LD), they are disproportionately likely to experience problems in math compared to children without LD. So why hasn't someone come up with a systematic way to address these concerns?

Turns out, they have. I suspect I am late to the game, but I just got the Volume 49 of Teaching Exceptional Children (published by Council for Exceptional Children) called "The Algebra Issue". Children with challenges in math are recommended to receive "intensified curriculum", and specifically, "evidence-based strategies for intensifying curriculum" (p. 94) to help with math delays.

I was floored. There are ESTs (empirically supported techniques) for teaching Algebra to children who struggle with Algebra. I will admit that my interest in this subject stops right there, abruptly. I am a parent and child advocate, so I feel it is my job to alert families and professionals alike to the existence of these ESTs and then uphold a standard of intervention.

Practically speaking, if your child struggles in math, there is something schools can (and should) do about it. If your child has an IEP (Individual Education Plan) already, you probably already know who to talk to about this. If your child does not, start with the math teacher, but ask the same question, "How are you addressing my child's struggles in math?" Hopefully you get back a thoughtful answer that includes a reasonable assessment of the child's learning needs as well as a systematic plan for addressing those needs. If you get anything less than that, or responses that seem reductionist and ill-informed (e.g., "Your child needs to try harder", "Your child needs to practice more."), step it up a notch and present your own research on EST for teaching math. Expect more from your children's teachers in terms of systematic and thoughtful ways of teaching because the research, information and training is definitely out there.

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