Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Observing Mathematics: Do Students with EBD Have Access to Standards-Based Mathematics Instruction?

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Observing Mathematics: Do Students with EBD Have Access to Standards-Based Mathematics Instruction?

Article excerpt


This descriptive observation study examined the degree to which students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) have access to National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Standards-based curricula and instruction. Investigators completed 60 observations, using a partial interval time-sampling procedure, in 12 elementary general education, resource room, and self-contained EBD classrooms drawn from 4 schools across 3 school districts. Based on the results of this preliminary investigation, evidence suggests students receiving their mathematics instruction in special education settings are not likely to access standards-based content. Further, typical general education teachers represented in this study appeared to present standards-aligned curricula and organized instruction differently than their special education colleagues. Recommendations for teachers, teacher educators, and researchers are discussed within a broader policy context, thus acknowledging the intersecting influences of NCTM standards-based reforms, and the legislative regulations of No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004).


More than a decade of reform effort in the mathematics education community culminated in the publication of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics' (NCTM) Principles and Standards of School Mathematics (NCTM, 1989, 1991, 1995, 2000). Arising from evidence that children and youth in the Unites States perform poorly compared with international students, the NCTM Principles and Standards reflect a broader international consensus on the nature of mathematics curricula and instruction required to prepare students for the challenges of an increasingly competitive global workforce (Beaton et al, 1996; National Assessment of Educational Progress [NAEP], 1992; Office of Educational Research and Improvement, 1992; Woodward & Montague, 2002).

The NCTM mathematics reform movement raises a number of questions for teachers, teacher educators, and researchers concerned with the education of children and youth with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). How do standards-based mathematics practices differ from traditional mathematics instruction? To what degree are these reforms relevant to the teachers, researchers, and advocates who work with this student population? Can we find evidence of their importance to this community? If NCTM standards-based reforms are relevant, it is important to document the degree to which students with EBD have access to standards-based reforms. The purpose of this pilot investigation was to examine the curricular content and instructional practices across the full range of elementary school classroom settings: general education, resource rooms, and self-contained classrooms for students with EBD. The overall objective of this work was to provide a preliminary look at the character of mathematics instruction available to students with EBD. Before introducing the study, we first discuss the characteristics of standards-based math instruction and the importance of these questions within the broader context of intersecting educational policy mandates.

Traditional Versus Standards-Based Mathematics

Goldsmith and Mark (1999) suggest the Standards represent a perspective on learning and teaching that shifts the focus of curriculum away from rote learning and the application of procedures to an emphasis on developing conceptual understanding. "A corresponding pedagogical shift has moved the focus from direct instruction, drill, and practice toward more active student engagement with mathematical ideas through collaborative investigations, hands-on explorations, the use of multiple representations, and discussion and writing" (Goldsmith & Mark, 1999, p. 40). These and other standards-based reform advocates do not deny the importance of helping students develop fact-based and procedural knowledge; rather they place these skills in the service of promoting conceptual understanding and learning to "think mathematically" (Addington, Clemens, Howe, & Saul, 2001; Lappan, 2001). …

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