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Do You Speak Math?


Teaching math is a series of progressions in many different ways. You don’t just jump from identifying your numbers to calculus. Even Sir Isaac Newton needed to work up to inventing calculus through intermediate steps. However, learning those steps often isn’t easy for learners with disabilities.

Beginning the journey to mathematics fluency starts with numeracy. This refers to developing a number sense and can include understanding quantities, comparisons like more/less or larger/smaller, ordinality, and symbols used in mathematics. Learning these things is an important first step in the journey of mathematics.

But let’s talk quickly about the language of mathematics. We don’t really think about mathematics even having language, but it really has its own distinct language that some kiddos struggle to learn. And without an understanding of this language, they struggle to acquire basic mathematics skills.

To start, think about the symbols used. For example, the “+” or “-“ or “=” for addition. If the learner does not know that “+” means to add, then they won’t know how to proceed. Even more than that, if the learner does not know that “add” means to combine the groups, they will struggle as well. The same for the other actions in an equation.

Teaching the language of mathematics is an important first step and helps develop numeracy. How to teach the language is a subject for another post, but I wanted to get you thinking about the importance of such concepts and how we often we take the idea for granted because it comes to us readily. Learners with disabilities do not have that same luxury.


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