3 Ways to Succeed with Math Using the VAKT Approach

Do you feel inadequate teaching math to struggling math students who just don’t get it? 

 Join the club.

At one time or another, almost every teacher has had to deal with those kinds of feelings. It's not at all unusual for teachers and tutors to feel unprepared for the task at hand.

    Unfortunately, mathematical instruction for remedial and special education students has primarily focused on helping an entire class with the acquisition of basic skills and traditional arithmetic (Chinn, Ashcroft 2007; Montague, Jitendra, 2006). But, clearly, we also need to adapt mathematics instruction to respond to individual student’s needs (Gersten, Jordon, Flojo, 2005).

         For example, one of the things you realize when dealing with dyslexia and math learning disabilities is that teaching and learning are multisensory. In 1979, Dr. Joyce Steeves wrote one of the earliest papers to suggest a multisensory approach to the teaching of mathematics. Dr. Steeves advocated the same teaching principles for teaching mathematics as Dr. Samuel Orton had suggested for language.

We know today that these multisensory strategies are effective for all students. What are they? The VAKT approach. VAKT stands for visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile. It's a fancy way of saying that you should help students see, hear, move and touch things as they try to understand a problem. This approach is especially helpful to students with “short attention spans” as they are not expected to merely sit still and learn the material. Instead, they manipulate tangible concrete objects that help them conceptualize abstract concepts. By using the O-G approach to support the teaching of both language acquisition AND Mathematics, we discover the best practices for the teaching of math in general.

In the next few posts, I’ll outline 10 techniques that I’ve found most effective for teaching students who struggle with math.

Today will focus on the first 3 Big VAKT Ideas:

         1. Touch it – Feel it – Move it Make math playful and concrete. It's long been a best practice in math education to teach concepts with concrete materials and examples. Wise teachers know that it's only when the vocabulary and the process are understood, that they can then move to a more abstract approach.

         2. Challenge and Creativity:   Instructors are at their best when they use their creativity to further their student’s understanding of math concepts, instead of merely relying on flash cards and worksheets. At the same time, students learn in an enjoyable way with all senses engaged while making connections between the concrete ideas they’ve experienced and the abstract concepts they need for quick recall.

         3. Have Success with a Solid Plan: Don't you love it when a plan comes together? You can use what we call a cumulative structure and sequence designed to flow through lessons automatically. Yes, those are a lot of big words, but concentrate on the "automatic" part. OG Math has a built in structure for strengthening thinking skills.

We'll take a closer look at developing automaticity and thinking skills in the next post.

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