Mathematics Reform in the Education of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

By Pagliaro, Claudia M. | American Annals of the Deaf, March 1998 | Go to article overview

Mathematics Reform in the Education of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students


Pagliaro, Claudia M., American Annals of the Deaf


In response to increased demand for competent workers who possess skills in problem solving, cooperative work, and technology, education professionals have set out to reform mathematics education. The purpose of the present study was to determine the state of mathematics reform in the education of deaf and hard of hearing students. A national survey was sent to administrators and faculty at schools for the Deaf seeking information on mathematics programs and instruction. Data were analyzed by profession (i.e., administrator, teacher) and grade level (K-4, 5-8, 9-12). Results show that some aspects of reform (e.g., problem solving, use of concrete materials) have been incorporated into the deaf education mathematics curriculum but that many 'traditional' techniques (e.g., drill and practice, rote memorization) remain in use. Data support the need for increased attention to mathematics education reform within deaf education. Recommendations are provided to professionals in the field to better prepare students for the 21st century.

As advances in technology move society deeper into the information age, the ability to apply mathematical concepts becomes increasingly important for both personal and occupational success. Basic skills in computation no longer suffice in the workplace, as the job market demands proficiency in problem solving, cooperative work, and computer technology. For deaf and hard of hearing students in particular, a strong mathematics education may be a determining factor in their future, providing professional choice and increasing opportunities for advancement. It is the responsibility of educators to prepare students to meet these challenges by providing a mathematics education that fosters competence. The three Standards documents issued by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) provide the framework for such learning and instruction.

In response to reports lamenting poor mathematics achievement in the United States, the NCTM published the Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM, 1989), Professional Standards for Teaching Mathematics (NCTM, 1991), and the Assessment Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM, 1995). Based on a constructivist philosophy of learning (Fosnot, 1989), the Standards have become the paragon for development of all new mathematics curricula, textbooks, materials, and means of assessment. Further, Standards-based curricula have become the criteria for state and district standards (National Education Goals Panel, 1996; "Two Recent Reports," 1998).

In contrast to the traditional curriculum, under which concepts and skills are passed from teacher to student in a fixed sequence (Parker, 1991; Romberg, 1990), the Standards stress application and building of knowledge through active participation in purposeful activities. The Standards advocates the use of technology as a tool to enhance and expand the learning environment (Clements, 1989; Templeton & Paden, 1991), and calls for the integration of mathematics with other disciplines. Assessment is promoted as an integrated and continuous process in which outcomes, obtained through a variety of sources, form the basis for subsequent instruction (NCTM, 1995).

Implementation of the Standards

A chronological review of the literature illustrates the acceptance of reformlike instruction in general education. In 1990, one year after the first Standards document was released, Parker and Kurtz (1990) surveyed 500 kindergarten through fourth grade (K4) teachers. Parker and Kurtz found that 23% were familiar with the Standards. Reformlike practices such as "applications" and "problem solving" ranked high among the teachers in frequency of use (p. 623).

An investigation 3 years later by the National Center for Research in Mathematical Sciences Education showed that more than 80% of the 1,182 teachers surveyed indicated strong support for mathematics reform in their school (NCRMSE, 1993; Secada & Byrd, 1993a). …

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