Mathematics is a fundamental subject that provides a foundation for learning many other subjects. Despite what we may think sometimes, we use all different types of maths in every day life, so having a solid understanding of various concepts is important for developing life skills and independent living. However, some children with SEN may struggle to understand mathematical concepts due to a variety of reasons. As an educator, it's important to adapt maths lessons to meet the individual needs of these children. In this blog post, we'll explore some strategies teachers can use to adapt maths lessons for children with special needs.
Identify the Child's Learning Style & Multisensory Teaching
One of the first things you can do when adapting maths lessons for children with SEN is to identify their learning style. Some children with SEND may have a visual learning style, while others may have an auditory learning style. Some children may learn better through hands-on activities, while others may benefit from a combination of different learning styles. It is important to identify how each child works best so that you can then tailor your activities and lessons to suit them and their needs.
Use Concrete Examples
Using concrete examples can be helpful for children with SEN who may struggle to understand abstract concepts. For example, using manipulatives such as blocks, counters, or other objects can help children understand mathematical concepts such as addition, subtraction, and multiplication. In addition, using examples from real life not only makes the concepts easier to understand, but also demonstrates how maths is used in every day life. For example, you could teach addition and subtraction by setting up a shop in the classroom and having students 'pay' for items using pretend money. This type of lesson also teaches life skills, independent living and communication skills!
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Simplify the Language
Simplifying the language used in maths lessons can also be helpful for children with SEN. Teachers can use clear and concise language, avoid using complicated words, and break down complex concepts into smaller, more manageable parts. Now, I know that you can't talk about maths, especially complex maths, without using complicated terms like algorithms, logarithms, differentiation or exponential functions but something as simple as providing a glossary or a cheat sheet that children can stick into books could be extremely helpful!
Technology can be a valuable tool for children with additional needs, as it can provide additional support and help them to better understand mathematical concepts. For example, apps, software, and online resources can be used to provide interactive and engaging learning experiences that cater to individual learning styles.
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Provide opportunities for practice
Repetition is key to developing math skills. Providing plenty of opportunities for practice, such as through games or activities, can help children with SEN build their skills and reinforce what they have learned. I always start off my lessons with a quick recap game, where I may call out some basic maths questions (or write them on the board for those who struggle with auditory processing) and get the students to write the answers on mini whiteboards and then hold up their answers.
Emphasise problem-solving skills
Math is not just about memorising formulas or equations. Emphasising problem-solving skills can help children with SEN develop critical thinking and analytical skills that will serve them well throughout their lives. Developing problem solving skills will also carry over into all other subjects and can support them as they learn independent living skills.
Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool. Celebrate small successes along the way, whether it's mastering a new concept or completing a challenging task. This will help children with SEN feel more motivated and confident. My children go wild for stickers but you could use any kind of praise or motivational product.