Special Education Math Framework

It’s been a while since I have sat down to collect my thoughts and as the Bible says, “write them down and make them plain”.  This may result in a series of multiple posts in the next coming days.


Coming back from winter break always creates the opportunity to visit every math classroom to see how teachers have jumped back into the swing of things.  I was encouraged by the many teachers who have started 2016 with a bang of differentiation, small groups and formative assessments.  I was also encouraged by the goals teachers set for themselves to improve during semester 2.  One teacher’s goal became the spring board for one of the many projects in which I am currently working.

The special ed teacher approach me to share she felt the interactive textbook wasn’t helping her students understand the concepts.  She desired to know more instructional strategies she could use to better meet their needs.  During a pre-conference, we discussed how using more hands on activities and manipulatives would help students in understanding the concepts.  This prompted the conversation of what resources would provide meaningful activities while incorporating manipulatives.  We looked at using Hands-On Standards (HOS) and resources from nzmaths.  The conference ended with the scheduling of a model lesson on implementing a HOS lesson involving functions.  During our post conference, she expressed excitement about the observations she made during the lesson.  Students were discussing the mathematics and making connections between previously taught concepts and functions.  Students were more engaged than when they worked from the textbook.  All this in the MILD special education classroom.

After seeing the lack of hands-on experiences in other special ed classrooms, the special ed AP and I discussed ways to increase this instructional strategy. What spawned from that conversation was the Special Education Math Framework for Grace Snell.

Balanced Numeracy Adapted from our district’s balanced numeracy document we developed a scope of a lesson for special ed teachers.  It was important for it to mesh with our school initiative of gradual release.  Beginning the lesson with an activity from HOS brought in the hands on experience while satisfying the whole group portion of gradual release.  As the lesson transitions to the work session where students are working independently, the same manipulatives from the HOS mini-lesson can be used and any knowledge or understanding gained can be applied.  So those teachers who find comfort in the pages of a textbook are able to stay comfortable for the time being.

Happening this Friday is an optional professional learning session on implementing HOS and using the manipulatives.  My goal is to get every special ed teacher comfortable with using manipulatives on a regular basis.  I predict when we get to that point, teachers will find the textbook does not fulfill the same need as once before.


  1. It’s funny that you wrote this post right when I’m having the same thought process about hands-on learning. I am currently in Unit 4 – Geometry (7th grade). When I think about geometry, I immediately think about hands-on activities. We will start with MGSE7.G.3 on Monday. I immediately thought about using play dough to create 3-D shapes and an index card as the ‘plane.’ I’ve asked other teachers how they introduced or taught this standard and I was told to tell the kids to use their imagination. (Wish I could insert an emoticon here!)

    • Hey Crystal! That’s a wonderful way to discuss cross sections. Asking students to “use their imagination” is definitely not something all students can do. To imagine the shape takes some visual-spatial ability in which some students lack. Your clay activity provides an entry point for all students. Did you have a chance to view the framework tasks regarding cross sections? You may want to direct your colleagues there 😉.

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