Teaching Slope Intercept Form to Special Ed Students

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Learning slope-intercept form is an important step toward understanding algebra and the coordinate plane. This lesson gives you some ideas for how to teach slope-intercept form to special education students.

Why Slope-Intercept Form Matters

This year, Ms. Annan has many special education students in her algebra class. She has only been teaching algebra for a year, and one of her new professional goals is to work harder to differentiate instruction, providing pathways to learners with different strengths and struggles.

Ms. Annan is about to start a unit about the coordinate plane, and one of the most important concepts she will be working on is slope-intercept form, or the equation for representing a line via y=mx +b.

Ms. Annan knows that her students' mastery of this form will be crucial if they are to move forward toward more advanced algebraic work and, eventually, trigonometry and calculus. After all, lines and their representation form the basis for most of the mathematical work that follows.

To make sure she can teach slope-intercept form to all of her students, Ms. Annan spends some time dissecting the challenges this might involve.

Challenges of Slope-Intercept Form

Of course, Ms. Annan knows that every special education student is unique. Some will understand slope-intercept form easily, and those who struggle with it might face very different challenges. In general, Ms. Annan starts by understanding the learning profile of each of her students, or what their strengths and weaknesses are and what conditions help them learn best.

At the same time, Ms. Annan comes to understand that there are some specific challenges that might make slope-intercept form especially difficult for special education students:

  • Those with learning disabilities may have a hard time memorizing the equation sequentially.
  • Anyone with struggles in the visual-spatial field can have trouble envisioning how an equation translates into a line.
  • Students with autism often have a hard time with partner and group work, so if slope-intercept form is taught that way, they will require extra support.
  • Students with memory, attentional, and executive function disabilities may find slope-intercept form overwhelming and will require more time to internalize the equation as well as the associated concepts.

Ms. Annan sees that she will have to be creative and thoughtful about her teaching if she is to differentiate appropriately.

Teaching Strategies

One thing Ms. Annan does is build up her repertoire of visual and tactile strategies for teaching slope-intercept form. Visual strategies are those that make use of images and graphic organizers, and many special education students benefit from repeated exposure to these strategies.

Tactile strategies allow students to use their hands and bodies to internalize new information, and this is also helpful for many special education students.

Visual Strategies for Slope-Intercept Form

Ms. Annan uses these techniques for her visual learners:

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