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  • Honora Wall

Finding math access through art

Betty came to me as a 6th grade homeschool student. She had given up on being successful in a traditional classroom, and had given up on being "good" at math. Today, she's back in a brick-and-mortar school and has an A in Algebra 1! I detail our work in this podcast episode: Success Story: Betty.

Here's a recap of what happened: first, I let Betty acknowledge all the negative experiences she had been through in math classes. Boy, there were a lot! Teachers, our words matter; our facial expressions matter; our attitude is clear. We have to create successful situations for our math students, no matter what it takes. We have to let them know they are capable and we are going to help them succeed. No one had done that for Betty.

Betty was a great artist. She could make collages, photographs, and free-hand drawings come alive! We used art as an access point, and this was the second key piece of our success. Betty and I talked about the intersection of math and art, and I gave her homework assignments to find art in her home, yard, neighborhood, and nearby parks that would reflect the math we talked about. It was only after Betty enjoyed math, through her art pieces, that we began to talk about numbers.

Third, we used the right tools to support her numeracy work. This gave Betty another access point to be successful and get the right answer while she focused on formulas and procedures. I only gave Betty grade-level work and she spent two years gaining confidence and improving her skills.

This year, Betty felt ready for a traditional school and math class again. She has the tools she needs to do well in math class. She understands her learning disability and can advocate for herself as a student. She doesn't need me anymore, which is GREAT! Although I hope she sends me pictures of her art.

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