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Math in Today's Schools

Teachers and teacher candidates should explore their own experiences with and feelings about mathematics if they are to be effective mathematics teachers for students with learning problems.
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Math in Today's Schools

Angela Smith has been hired immediately after graduation as a special education teacher at Maple Street Middle School. The principal has just informed her that she is to support regular mathematics classes for three periods of the day and will teach special pull-out mathematics classes two periods each day. Leaving the principal's office, Angels feels panic as she struggles to recall the mathematics programs reviewed over only a two-week period in her special education methods course.

Joseph Lopez has just met with his new principal at Hilltop High School and was informed that at total of 20 students with learning, emotional, and communication disabilities will be in his two Geometry classes and three Algebra I classes. Joseph recalls accommodations for physical, visually, and hearing disabled students but cannot imagine what he should plan for students with other learning problems.

Chris Johnson feels fortunate to have a teaching position at Pine Grove Elementary School in October after relocating to Pine Grove to be closer to her family. But the meeting with the principal has left her puzzled. What is a remedial mathematics support teacher?

In a meeting of new teachers in the district, Angela ex-presses her anxiety about teaching a subject she is not very strong in herself. Joseph talks about his love of everything mathematical but uncertainty regarding student needs. Chris feels confident that her five years of elementary teaching will be beneficial for instructional planning but is not sure about how to work effectively with so many other teachers.

Angela, Joseph, and Chris are facing the challenges of new teaching positions that will involve mathematics instruction or the support of mathematics instruction for students who are struggling to learn mathematics skills and concepts. In a fairly short period of time they must understand their instructional roles, get to know students, review the district mathematics curriculum standards, and develop long- and short-range instructional plans in cooperation with other teachers. All three teachers have doubts about their abilities to meet the needs of students with learning problems within the mathematics curriculum. But they all have many strengths and demonstrate professional attitudes about developing new skills. How important is the teacher's attitude toward collaborating with other teachers, working with challenging students, and teaching mathematics? These professional dispositions are as important as content and pedagogical knowledge and skills for successful instructional programs.