Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Discrete Mathematics in Deaf Education: A Survey of Teachers' Knowledge and Use

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Discrete Mathematics in Deaf Education: A Survey of Teachers' Knowledge and Use

Article excerpt

THE STUDY DOCUMENTS what deaf education teachers know about discrete mathematics topics and determines if these topics are present in the mathematics curriculum. Survey data were collected from 290 mathematics teachers at center and public school programs serving a minimum of 120 students with hearing loss, grades K-8 or K-12, in the United States. Findings indicate that deaf education teachers are familiar with many discrete mathematics topics but do not include them in instruction because they consider the concepts too complicated for their students. Also, regardless of familiarity level, deaf education teachers are not familiar with discrete mathematics terminology; nor is their mathematics teaching structured to provide opportunities to apply the real-world-oriented activities used in discrete mathematics instruction. Findings emphasize the need for higher expectations of students with hearing loss, and for reform in mathematics curriculum and instruction within deaf education.

How should buses be routed and scheduled so that all students arrive at school on time and in the most cost-effective way?

How can final exams be scheduled so that no student has a conflict?

Who actually won the 2000 presidential election?

What do these questions have in common? They all incorporate discrete mathematics. Discrete mathematics is a contemporary branch of mathematics, widely used in business and industry and having practical applications in everyday life. It includes such tasks as finding shortest routes between locations, scheduling tournaments, and conducting elections. It incorporates real-world problems and provides opportunities to apply traditional mathematical concepts from various branches of mathematics in meaningful ways. In addition, this type of mathematics is engaging for students of all ability levels. There are no data, however, on the inclusion of discrete mathematics in the deaf education classroom. In the present study, we sought to document what deaf education teachers know about discrete mathematics topics, and to document the presence of such topics in the curriculum.

Background General Mathematics Education

As stated in a publication of the National Research Council, Helping Children Learn Mathematics, "Success in tomorrow's job market will require more than computational competence. It will require the ability to apply mathematical knowledge to solve problems" (Mathematics Learning Study Committee, 2002, p. 3). This involves going beyond the traditional, fact-based mathematics instruction to a reformed, problem-based, authentic curriculum. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) strongly recommends that educators actively engage students in solving "real-world" problems that are purposeful and worthwhile (NCTM, 2000), in order to adequately prepare them for productive roles in society. Instruction, therefore, must provide opportunities for students to experience mathematics as a valuable tool with which to solve problems, communicate, and reason (NCTM, 1989). In such a curriculum, the use of discontinuous, or discrete, mathematics is essential.

Discrete mathematics provides teachers with a practical way to think about traditional mathematics topics and with new strategies for enhancing student engagement. Through authentic problem-solving experiences, students use a synthesis of mathematical concepts toward a purposeful goal. They investigate the mathematics behind political elections, for example, explore repetitive patterns and processes in nature, and navigate paths and networks in order to make snow removal or garbage collection more efficient. Such problems may not have one specific "right" answer, but rather several answers that students evaluate based on given limits and other circumstances such as budget restraints or time factors.

The NCTM (2000) supports the use of discrete mathematics as "an integral part of the school mathematics curriculum K-12" (p. …

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