Making Math Accessible for the At-Risk Student: Grades 7-12

Making Math Accessible for the At-Risk Student: Grades 7-12

Making Math Accessible for the At-Risk Student: Grades 7-12

Making Math Accessible for the At-Risk Student: Grades 7-12


Every day, secondary math teachers face classrooms containing students with a wide range of abilities, yet each child is expected to meet the same testing standards. Special education teachers are often asked to collaborate in classrooms outside of their curricular areas providing accommodations and modifications. Both math teachers and special education instructors can benefit from effective, alternative-presentation strategies specifically designed for students struggling with math.

Making Math Accessible for the At-Risk Student comprises organizational, instructional, and motivational activities that are adaptable across grade levels. This cornucopia of best-practice strategies and resources is designed to help at-risk students achieve standards in math. The first six chapters discuss the most common reasons adolescent and preadolescent students struggle with math and present techniques to keep these students engaged in the classroom. The remainder of the book is a treasure trove of activities that utilize the instructional strategies with specific content to help all students succeed.


Learning styles as well as dominant intelligences vary from student to student. Be aware of this and throughout the course of every week dish up something for everyone. Try something new. On television we hear stories about musicians who continually “reinvent” themselves and stay around for decades. If reinventing works for musicians, it can work for teachers, too. Rock on!

Know and Share the Objective(s) of the Day Orally and in Writing

How many times on a family trip do kids ask, “Are we there yet?” If your math objectives are written on the board and you start class by telling the students where you are going today, they will not have to ask. They will know when they arrive at their destination; it should not be a daily surprise.

Talk to Yourself and Teach Thinking: Metacognition

Math is not a spectator sport; it requires active student participation. Remember when you were first taught how to use Microsoft Word or your school’s electronic grade book? If the technology trainer simply did demos and rattled off shortcut keys like Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V, you were probably left dazed and confused. Invite students inside your head to hear your thought processes. Use selftalk to model the problem-solving strategies you want them to employ when working alone. Repeat the same phrasing problem after problem to reinforce the process. Periodically leave out words or a step and signal the class to supply them for you.

Provide Adequate Wait Time

After a question, give ample wait time for student responses. There are many reasons students do not respond to a question immediately when asked. Some students are simply slow to process information and formulate a response. Perhaps others did not hear or understand the question. Fear of being wrong keeps many students, even good ones, from raising their hands. Whatever the reason, at-risk students live in hope that if they wait long enough, maybe you will just go away. Restate the question or give a hint, but be patient and wait for the answer.

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