Creating an Inclusive Math Learning Environment

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  • 0:05 Inclusive Learning Environment
  • 1:29 Culturally Proficient Math
  • 4:08 Responding to Students
  • 5:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Cory Haley
In this lesson, we will explore the components and requirements of creating an inclusive math learning environment. We will also review research-based strategies.

Inclusive Learning Environment

Life for individuals with disabilities, whether children or adults, is different now than it was 30 years ago. Someone with a disability as a result of a condition or impairment is provided with more opportunities to achieve goals and accomplishments. Imagine being in a class with Walt Disney, Steven Spielberg, Michael Phelps, Whoopi Goldberg, Daniel Radcliffe, and Anderson Cooper. This would be an awesome experience, right? All of these successful people have disabilities.

In education, we have seen substantial changes in the treatment of individuals with disabilities. In 1975, Public Law 94-142, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, was enacted to ensure children with disabilities have the opportunity to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Because of this law, schools were required to be inclusive and establish environments where all students can experience success. An inclusive environment is one in which students with disabilities learn alongside their non-disabled peers. Establishing inclusive classrooms is exciting and rewarding in many ways, but it also creates a need for instructional innovation.

How, for example, can teachers successfully develop math curriculum and instruction in an inclusive setting?

Culturally Proficient Math

Part of teaching math in a way that is inclusive for all learners is ensuring that you have a culturally proficient math environment. Culturally proficient classrooms are founded on diverse teaching methods and principles. This type of environment fosters and produces high-achieving students. A culturally proficient math classroom incorporates several non-negotiable elements.

1. Research-based strategies. For example, the Response to Intervention (RTI Model) is a multi-tier model of increasing interventions used to identify non-responders or students with learning disabilities.

One purpose of RTI is to provide support to those students who are struggling in class. Tier 1 represents broad coverage through which all students receive high-quality instruction on core academic skills. Tier 2 represents additional support given within the general education classroom to a group of students who require it. In Tier 3, individual students receive more intensive and individualized interventions.

2. Inquiry-based math tasks apply an instructional strategy that develops the students' critical thinking skills while they are learning. This can be done through a series of high-order thinking questions (HOTQ), as these are questions used to clarify, check for understanding, check for accuracy, and to engage and build mathematical practices.

Here is an example of an inquiry-based math task and some high-order thinking questions that might be used. Cory is adding the fractions 1/2 + 1/3. His answer is 2/5, which is incorrect. HOTQ 1. 'Could you tell us why you think this answer is wrong?' HOTQ 2. 'What mathematical tools can you use to solve the problem?' HOTQ 3. 'Can you use precise math language and definitions in your explanation?'

3. Technology-enhanced instruction uses appropriate devices, applications, and games to introduce or reinforce concepts.

4. Strategically designed center rotations, where students rotate between learning stations that teach math in different ways; for example, a computer station, board game station, small-group learning, or independent learning.

5. Inclusive classroom aesthetics add beauty and tastefulness and enhance the learning environment by including art that reflects the students' culture, math posters both historical and current, and other mathematical experiences.

Responding to Students

In addition to thinking about your classroom environment in broad strokes, when you're working on inclusive math instruction, you want to think about your specific students and their needs. Some of the ways you might respond to students include:

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