Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

A Survey of the Current Status of Visually Impaired Students in Secondary Mathematics

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

A Survey of the Current Status of Visually Impaired Students in Secondary Mathematics

Article excerpt

"A Survey of the Current Status of Visually Impaired Students in Secondary Mathematics," by Donald W. Rapp and Audrey J. Rapp, originally published in the February 1992 issue of the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, Volume 86, pp. 115-117.

When I was asked to take on this project and pick one single article that "mattered" to me, I found it to be very difficult. I have read The series editor of "This Mattered to Me" is Stuart H. Wittenstein, Ed.D., superintendent of the California School for the Blind.

hundreds of articles from the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB) that have had an impact on my professional career. Like many in the field of visual impairment, I have an array of professional teaching and research interests. Thus, picking just one article on one area of interest was quite difficult. After much thought, I decided to go back to my roots as an educator: secondary mathematics. My first job was at the Alabama School for the Blind as its secondary mathematics teacher, and it was during my time there that I began a never-ending search for any and all information related to teaching mathematics to students with visual impairments. During this search, I discovered the JVIB article, "A Survey of the Current Status of Visually Impaired Students in Secondary Mathematics," by Donald W. Rapp and Audrey J. Rapp, which included the findings of a questionnaire that was answered by teachers of students with visual impairments.

Timeless research

When I first read the Rapp and Rapp article, it was already eight years old, but it was the only data that existed at that time that discussed the types of mathematics that were being taught to secondary students with visual impairments. The authors conducted a simple survey of teachers of students with visual impairments in six New England states. The survey included questions on which secondary mathematics courses the teachers' students were taking, how the students were aided in their general education mathematics courses, and what tools they utilized.

The most profound aspect of the article was the finding that of the 40 students who were reported as using braille as their primary literacy medium, only 19 (over half) were not enrolled in typical secondary mathematics courses. From this finding, one can surmise that either a large proportion of the students studied had cognitive disabilities in addition to their visual impairment that inhibited their abilities to take secondary mathematics courses or that their IEP (Individualized Education Program) teams did not push them to enroll in higher mathematics courses. Although cognitive disabilities may have ruled out higher mathematics for a number of these students, I suspect the latter is true. In my experience in the field of visual impairment, unfortunately, I do not believe that conditions have improved since this article was published. Let this study serve as a reminder that students who are blind need to be encouraged to enroll in higher mathematics courses.

The article also highlighted the need for increased teacher training in braille. I was moved by the fact that 73% of the teachers who responded to the survey expressed "interest in a workshop to review concepts of algebra, geometry and algebra II, with application of the Nemeth Code" (p. …

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