Academic journal article International Journal of Whole Schooling

Advancing Inclusive Mathematics Education: Strategies and Resources for Effective IEP Practices

Academic journal article International Journal of Whole Schooling

Advancing Inclusive Mathematics Education: Strategies and Resources for Effective IEP Practices

Article excerpt

As a scholar, teacher educator, and ardent advocate for inclusive education, broadly, but with a particular focus on mathematics, I have often felt powerless during individualized education program (IEP) meetings pushing for inclusive mathematics education for my own child. Over the past seven years across two public school districts in two different states, I have attended numerous IEP meetings, mediation meetings, meeting with lawyers, special education directors, and school principals where the final message, whether implicitly or explicitly stated, was: "Your child does not belong in the general education classroom." Their recommendation was to, as with other students in the school district diagnosed with a severe disability, place him in a self-contained special education classroom 100% of the time. Although frustrated with the process and outcomes of the IEP meetings, my experiences led to several pockets of "success" in the school districts moving toward more inclusive education. In this article, I share strategies and resources that I introduced during the IEP meetings that contributed to crucial shifts in developing a more inclusive IEP (in terms of both my child's classroom placement and team members valuing my voice). I assert that these strategies and resources should be used during IEP meetings to set a productive tone, conversation, and direction for the development of meaningful academic and social goals.

These strategies and resources center around three concepts: (1) powerful mathematics minds, (2) goals that support understanding, and (3) math needs students with disabilities. They are also guided by national standards for mathematics practices (e.g., Common Core State Standards (NGAC, 2010) and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics' Principles and Standards (NCTM, 2014)), emerging mathematics education research, Universal Design for Learning principles (CAST, 2016), and funds of knowledge for teaching (Moll, Amanti, Neff, & Gonzalez, 1992). Indeed, these strategies and resources elicit specific and new ways of thinking such that additional resources can be sought, identified, and leveraged to support inclusive practices and to guide future research. I next describe each of the three concepts and detail how they may enacted during IEP meetings in order to advance inclusive mathematics education.

Beyond Strengths toward Powerful Mathematics Minds

Beginning the meeting with a well-thought out discussion and description of the student's strengths, source of knowledge, and preference for learning sets a tone and a path that is very different from a deficit-oriented commencement. This element is consistent with the design of the IEP in asking members to list the student's strength early on in the crafting of the IEP. As such, it provides team members with a frame to build the IEP based on the student's strength. Yet, this is one of the least developed areas of the IEP, effectively diminishing the concept of building upon the student's strength and learning capabilities. Moreover, when strengths are meaningfully articulated beyond "He is a happy boy" or "She has a warm smile", they tend to position students as having fixed mathematics mindsets (Boaler, 2015). For example, describing a student as having "relatively strong" visual learning abilities promotes a fixed understanding of that student to that particular strength with more limited capabilities in other domains (e.g., auditory). Indeed, Boaler (2015) suggested that educators must presume that all students, including students with disabilities, have a tremendous potential for powerful mathematics learning via a growth mindset. This presumption is by no means easily subscribed. As such, I found that a resource called setting up norms in math class (Youcubed, 2014) is useful to introduce in IEP meetings to better guide the shift from a fixed toward a growth mindset.

The setting up norms in math class resource (see Figures 1 and 2) offers seven short, yet thought-provoking statements about mathematics teaching and learning. …

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