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    Math and Special Education Blog

    Goal Setting to Raise Achievement

    Luminous Learning Tuesday Teaching Tip setting smart goals
    Setting SMART Goals
    The new year signals a fresh start, a chance to reflect on the progress you made in the past year while making plans for growth in the year ahead. Similarly, this is a great time to encourage your students to reflect on their academic, social, and emotional achievements while choosing areas they can improve upon. As a teacher, I understood the importance of including my students in the goal setting process to give them ownership over their own learning. Goal setting activities can be general, where students choose any area they want to improve, or modified for a specific subject area, such as math or reading. One of my favorite types of goals are called SMART goals. 

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    Differentiating Assessments for Special Needs Students

    As a special education teacher, I spent a good deal of my time trying to make the mainstream curriculum accessible for my students. Oftentimes, with the right supports, they were able to grasp content on or near grade level. When it came time to assess their mastery of the curriculum, I built the same supports into my assessments. Special needs students may struggle with retention and recall, but given the opportunity and appropriate supports, they may shine with more complex assessment tasks. A carefully differentiated assessment will provide more meaningful data, indicating opportunities to challenge all students.

    Read more about how I differentiated math assessments, although the strategies I outline can apply to multiple subject areas. Check out the latest edition of ASCD Express: http://www.ascd.org/ascd-express/vol9/902-uscianowski.aspx


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      What's the trouble with fractions?

      Fractions were one of the trickiest topics for my students to learn. Prior to fractions, numbers made sense: they were whole, they increased in value as they got bigger, and they usually became larger when multiplied and smaller when divided.

      With fractions, numbers were suddenly stacked on top of one another! Confusing words like “simplify” and “common factor” had to be memorized! When the numbers grew larger (1/4, 1/5, 1/6) their value decreased! In fact, they weren’t even called “numbers” anymore, but “numerators” and “denominators!”

      It’s no wonder that fractions left my students scratching their heads.

      But fractions aren’t only difficult for students with learning disabilities. On the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress), half of all 8th graders couldn’t correctly order 3 fractions from least to greatest. So why are fractions so tricky for our students?

      Read more to find out!

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      Best Practices for Introducing a New Math Concept

      When introducing a new math concept, begin by anchoring students' understanding in a concrete representation before progressing to a semi-concrete and then abstract representation of the concept.

      concrete ---> semi-concrete --> abstract

       For example, let's say you're teaching multiplication for the first time. Instead of beginning by showing students the times tables, you'll want to develop their understanding that multiplication is repeated addition. Start in the concrete stage:

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