Monday, November 16, 2009

Everyday Math author defends his program against Katharine Beals

In today's Philadelphia Inquirer Letters to the Editor, excerpted here:

Katharine Beals' article on the use of "reform math" with students with autism contains many misperceptions about Everyday Mathematics that, as the program's coauthor, I want to clarify ("The 'reform math' problem," last Monday).

Everyday Mathematics was designed for general education students, but it has been effective in special education, including with students with autism.

Beals' claim that students spend large chunks of time working in unsupervised groups is untrue. A teacher supervises student group work at all times. While some assignments are "open-ended and language-intensive," many are not. A balanced curriculum needs simple exercises to build basic skills, as well as more difficult problems.

Beals writes that students "lose points for failing to cooperate in groups, explain their answers, and comprehend language-intensive problems." While decisions about how to grade students are made at the local level, many people believe it's reasonable to require students to work cooperatively, explain their work, and understand word problems.

Everyday Mathematics is not just a "sequence of themes," but a carefully organized sequence of lessons resulting in mastery of a specific set of goals. Its approach is well supported by research, the authors' experience, and decades of classroom experience.

Naturally, accommodations for teaching children with autism must be made, and that's what professionals always do. As with any tool, Everyday Mathematics must be used with professional judgment.

Andy Isaacs

Chicago

2 comments:

Mrs. C said...

"Beals writes that students 'lose points for failing to cooperate in groups, explain their answers, and comprehend language-intensive problems.' While decisions about how to grade students are made at the local level, many people believe it's reasonable to require students to work cooperatively, explain their work, and understand word problems."

Um... many people think it's reasonable. That's great! It's pretty reasonable to expect kids to run during PE, too, but they don't expect wheelchair-bound kids to do it. Why do people have to insist that because autism is invisible that it therefore SOMEHOW does not exist? I see this attitude all too often! It isn't an Everyday Math thing... it's just a thing I see generally... Make the standards and then somehow these kids are going to intuitively get these social skills. RIGHT??!

I'm sure he's right that like any math program it's a teaching tool, and most students are NOT autistic. BUT the point you were making was that this particular tool as written is at best unhelpful to autistic students.

Arg! The lack of logic here is killing me! It would be funny if it weren't such a prevalent attitude.

Socrates said...

I'm horrified by Mr Isaacs' lack of understanding.

"and understand word problems"

Like they had to before some very clever Left-Brained person invented algebra.

I'm genuinely shocked. I think Andy needs to be brought to the attention of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.