Multisensory Math is a different way of thinking about teaching math. It uses manipulative objects to teach the concepts of math. The instructional sequence is Concrete-Representational-Abtract which we refer to as CRA. Hands-on instruction using concepts leads to the use of pictures to provide a kind of portable memory which supports processing at the abstract level which uses only numbers.
Though the use of manipulative objects is essential for some students, the object of using manipulatives is to get rid of them. Ultimately we want all of our students to be proficient in calculations and applications in mathematics. The underlying concepts must be clearly understood if students are to apply mathematics to a useful purpose.
The research support for this program is grounded in the work of scientists such as Stanisas Dehaene and Brian Butterworth among others. They have helped to establish numeracy as a possible core deficit in mathematics difficulties. I refer to this as automatic recognition of quantity and quantity patterns. It is knowing the "threeness" of three, the "fourness" of four. They have established that the human brain can recognize up to four items without counting. More than that and the human brain needs patterns. An example would be trying to recognize nine items without counting. If those items are placed in a pattern of tally marks (five) and the dice pattern of four, easy.
This entire program uses the goal of quantity and pattern recognition to aid students in using math. The other unique aspect of this program is that it uses strategies from historic multisensory teaching, especially for language instruction. Strategies from Multisensory Language Instruction, which has been around since the early twentieth century, are applied to teaching mathematics. This includes things such as simultaneous processing, pattern recognition and color coding, hands-on instruction and specific retrievable instructional language.
The approach is appropriate for all students, inclusion classes, classes for at risk and LD students, English Language Learners, and for individual private remedial work. It is especially appropriate for working with students who have language based disabilities/dyslexia.
There are three associated blogs and over sixty hours of course work available. The courses are open to the public, to educational professionals such as teachers and tutors, to parents, to academic therapists and MSLE specialists who want additional training in working with students who learn differently.
The use of multisensory methods makes links between the visual (what we see), auditory (what we hear), and kinesthetic-tactile (what we feel); this provides students with three pathways for learning sound, letters, and letter formation (Henry, 2000). These pathways are taught together (e.g., learning a new letter or pattern, carefully tracing it with correct and consistent strokes to form the letter, as in the curve of “d” before the stick, and pronouncing the corresponding sound). Henry (2003) found that these techniques, used in special interventions for students with dyslexia, enhance memory and learning; these techniques are not only beneficial for students with dyslexia, but also for all children learning the foundation skills for reading.
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