In all areas of life, math helps people solve problems and make
good decisions. In recognition of the need for math knowledge, the 1997
Amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) raised
the bar on what students with disabilities are expected to learn. If students
with disabilities are to achieve to their potential, they must have mathematical
knowledge and skills as reflected in the general education curriculum.
A significant element of the standards-driven reform effort is the National
Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Principles and Standards for
School Mathematics (first published in 1989 and revised in 2000). The
NCTM Standards focus on conceptual understanding and problem solving rather
than procedural knowledge or rule-driven computation. Most states and
districts have used the NCTM Standards to some degree in revamping their
mathematics curricula. [For more information on NCTM Standards, visit
the NCTM web site at http://standards.nctm.org.]
According to OSEP-funded researchers Paula Maccini and Joe Gagnon, most
special education teachers do not have sufficient knowledge about the
NCTM Standards and this undermines their ability to provide support to
students with disabilities. "In our survey, we found that many special
education teachers were unfamiliar with the NCTM Standards, and those
who were felt they had insufficient information, support, and materials
for implementing the standards," Maccini reports. On the positive side,
however, Maccini and Gagnon found a link between teacher familiarity with
the NCTM Standards, teacher confidence teaching math, and student response.
"Teachers who implemented activities, lessons, and strategies consistent
with the NCTM Standards indicated that students with disabilities responded
favorably," Maccini says. "Many students with mild disabilities experience
difficulties with the math curriculum, but with the right support, they
can succeed in a higher level math curriculum," Gagnon adds.
The challenge for teachers is to provide effective math instruction to
students with disabilities so that they can meet high standards. Researchers
featured in this Research Connections are helping us understand what it
will take to ensure that students with disabilities succeed.