The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awryRobert Burns
Remember what I wrote the last time about the pacing of the Math curriculum being too fast for the students in my Resource Math class? Well, we all hit a wall on Friday. I think I actually ran full-speed ahead into that wall. And crashed…pretty hard. Despite being aware that most of my students have a Math Learning Disability (likely Dyscalculia, even though it is not named in their IEPs), I did not realize the magnitude of their skill gaps. Being as stubborn as I am, I was still determined for us to hit the ground running. I also really wanted to use the Open Up Resources (OUR) curriculum this year. Not the bells and whistles most teachers use; just a solid Math curriculum, for which I would not have to pay.
Last week we worked on Adding and Subtracting Decimals, then we did a slow roll into Multiplying Decimals. That is where the wheels fell off our proverbial bus. Then, they rolled over the cliff and caught on fire. Everything was on fire. The kids’ faces during our Common Assessment broke my heart. They had forgotten everything, from lining-up the decimals when adding and subtracting, to just multiplying and putting the decimal in place.
Despite reviewing right before the quiz.
Despite having anchor charts hanging right on the walls in front of them.
Despite having that same anchor chart in their Interactive Notebooks (which they were allowed to use).
Things fall apart. And they did right in front of my (I-waited-until-they-left-class-to-cry) eyes.
My sadness was not solely due to the fact that they seemed to forget everything. In large part, it was due to the fact that it seems they were never taught most of the basic Math skills. At the very least, they were not taught well. What exactly do I mean by ‘well’?
A Math Learning Disability, or Dyscalculia, is different than a kid struggling with fact fluency. Sometimes, we can work with a child on fact fluency and they eventually ‘catch-up’. With a Math-related disability, we need more than drill and kill. We need to understand Dyscalculia in order to understand where and how kids struggle with Mathematical concepts. Our country’s Math instruction does not account for kids with Dyscalculia. Our country’s Special Education Teacher Education programs do not address Dyscalculia. Our students’ IEPs do not even mention the word Dyscalculia. I am certain that if I ever see the term in a student file, it will be the result of a private psychological evaluation.
Why does all of this matter? Numeracy is the area where Dyscalculiacs often struggle. Adding, Subtracting, Multiplying, and Dividing are all foundational numeracy skills. Those skills are the core of the first unit of 6th grade Math. The same place where our bus hit the wall.
I have been thinking all weekend, bouncing ideas off of @JustLB and #TwitterPeeps about how to put our bus back together. The suggestions look promising. We will still be very behind. But, alas…I am too stubborn to give up.