The science of math learning is an emerging and much needed field. As co-author of the book, How Children Learn Math: The Science of Math Learning in Research and Practice, Karen read thousands of research articles on the cognitive processes required for math learning. The book is the first of its kind to give teachers and parents access to this research to inform and improve their instruction.
The English language of math is abstract and complex and is much more confusing than most people realize. Today’s math instruction and assessment are often very
heavily language based, presenting a barrier to learning math for many children. With only 32% of 4th graders, and 25% of 12th graders meeting state standards in
math in the United States, teaching and learning math is clearly a great problem.
Karen’s approach to teaching math is based in the research and includes:
- Mental number line – develop for whole numbers, fractions, and decimals
- Physical number lines – concrete and hands on learning that take the mystery out of numbers , including physical number lines for whole numbers fractions, decimals, and percentages.
- Math Facts – systematic, orderly, mathematical approach, and not flash cards or memorization (a language task, not a math task). Error free and pain
- Logic and mathematical thinking – beyond procedures
- Math language instruction – what does it mean and how is it different than regular language, reducing the language load in math instruction to increase learning math concepts
- Visual spatial skills – foundation for math and STEM success, 2D and 3D
- Story problems – research-based strategies for solving them
- Gesture – teacher and student use of gesture improves math learning
- Deep understanding of math – not memorization
- Number Sense – how numbers are related
"Oh, NOW I get it!"
Reading, Spelling and Writing
Reading and writing are a very complex processes requiring integration of many parts of the brain. These skills are not inherent to the brain and must be learned. Between 10-20% of children have a specific reading disorder called dyslexia, a language-based learning disability most often deeply rooted in difficulty with phonological processing. It is not correlated with overall cognitive ability, and many children with dyslexia are also very bright, though they often wonder why other children can read so easily when they cannot. When given the appropriate instruction, they can learn to read!
Karen uses structured literacy to teach reading, spelling, and writing, specifically a speech to print approach. Many schools use a leveled literacy approach which is insufficient for children with most reading disorders, thus leaving many students to struggle unnecessarily.
Karen’s individualized approach to reading includes:
- Phonological Awareness – building blocks of speech, reading, writing
- Phonics – 26 letters represent 42 sounds of speech
- Spelling – using sounds and allowable letter patterns, not memorization
- Mental orthographic images of words – automatic recognition and visual recall of words
- Morphology – word parts have meaning
- Vocabulary – understand and use words meaningfully
- Visual processing – strategies to reduce skipping words and lines, seeing part of a word and guessing the rest, and adding words not in the text
- Background knowledge – necessary for comprehension
- Abstract language - inference, metaphors, sarcasm, idioms, multiple meanings, getting the joke
- Reading comprehension – what does it mean, what is the point, main ideas and details
- Story retelling – read it, write about it, tell about it