by Lisa Woods, a secondary mathematics teacher in Yorkshire
This isn’t from one of my students, but from my daughter's homework. She is in Year 7 (at a different mainstream school from the one where I teach), has autism and finds maths particularly challenging.
The task she’d been given was to work out , and she proudly came and told me the answer was (not quite the I was expecting), so I asked her how she worked it out and this was what she showed me:
This made it clear to me that my daughter has been shown a number of methods for responding to different maths problems but she is not sure which to apply in the different scenarios. Of course, we see this right across the secondary age and attainment spectrum – think of the A/A* candidates who simplify correctly to get … and then cross out the ’s and declare that the answer is !
My daughter struggles with the concepts of money and the 24-hour clock (time generally). I am pleased with the work both her primary did and secondary school are doing to support her, but she does not seem to have any innate grasp of numbers. When she was at primary school I printed off the numbers 1 to 10 on little cards for her to practise ordering them. She managed it after about six months of practice, and then asked me "I wonder how many cards there are?" ... so we counted them ... got to 10 … and I waited for the lightbulb moment that never happened: it seems that, to her, asking “what is purple + red?” makes as much sense as “what is ?”
There are no easy answers to this I guess, but we sometimes need to remind ourselves that not all students are created equal – either in the precise sense of their cognitive architecture, or more broadly in the sense of their mathematical experiences and learning prior to joining our classes.
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