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Linda

California Linda

Math kept me in community college for 8 years - My story



Tuesday, 10/30/2018
I am a paralegal, a notary, a business manager, and a college student in California. Today, I went to math class and the instructor returned my midterm and the results sent me into a complete breakdown. I took my exam, marked 32%, and left class early. I was so distraught, that I ran to the library and immediately withdrew from my math class. (This is the fourth time that I have taken math in college. I passed Math 104, the elementary math class, but it does not count for college credit for the degree.) 
I ran over to the Guardianship Program (GP) for students in, or formerly in, foster care. The GP provides school supplies,  counseling, a life-coach who encourages me to succeed, weekly gas card, and food vouchers for the campus cafe. In the guardianship office, as soon as I saw a staff member I was familiar with, I started crying uncontrollably. She invited me in and I sat down. She asked what happened and I told her that I failed my math exam and no matter how hard I study and try, it's not registering. I feel like my brain was clipped at birth. I have Dyscalculia and it a disability. I said that I'm not going back to math class, I feel embarrassed, I feel depressed, and today I'm having a nervous breakdown. I cried, and cried, and cried some more. She spoke to me and calmed me down. She said, "Lets write a plan to help you." 

She created a list:



































1. Go to the math chair and tell her your problem.


























2. Go talk to the math instructor.

I went to the math chair crying. I told her what happened, I told her how I was feeling. She said, "I'm gonna walk you over to the health center." She said, "You need to breathe." I was so sad. I calmed down a little because the math chair said some things that made me feel that she was sensitive to what I was going through. She said, "Let's set a plan for you to get help."

1. Go to the transfer center talk to Angel.

I went to talk to Angel. and at this point, I was still crying.  He was welcoming. He understood and told me that he was going to see what he could do to help me. 

Everyone was working on my behalf. I cried for four hours. My head was throbbing from a complete migraine.

I started researching dyscalculia and found Renee Newman from Dyscalculia.org, a complete blessing! Her educational background, in itself, is amazing. The advocacy that she provides is worth it. Not many people know about this disability and due to this, people fail to take it seriously. This disability causes math to be foreign. Get help and Renee will have your back 100%. She cares, it is proven.

Wednesday 10/31/18

The next day, Mrs. Newman sent this letter to the math dean, the math instructor, and the student disabilities services director:

Linda experiences severe math anxiety that significantly inhibits math performance. Please note that math anxiety is a symptom, not a cause, of dyscalculia. It is akin to a PTSD response to math, triggered by a lifetime of frustration in mathematics in spite of earnest effort and a will to succeed. It also results when cognitive load exceeds working memory and processing capacities.

It is imperative to prevent the anxiety response in dyscalculics. This can be achieved by reducing cognitive load and by allowing the student to employ proven strategies to mitigate these dyscalculic characteristics:
  • number mixups
  • insufficient working memory
  • impaired and inconsistent memory and retrieval
  • faulty reasoning
  • impaired sequential/procedural memory
  • is easily overwhelmed
  • experiences mental static
  • cognitive shutdown/confusion/inability to function

Effective Strategies to Mitigate the Impact of Dyscalculia on Math Performance
  1.  reason aloud verbally
  2.  illustrate
  3. color-code and graphically organize elements while working
  4. isolate digits and chunk elements
  5. extra time to triple-check element accuracy (perception, decoding, interpretation, processing/reasoning/problem-solving, encoding/writing)
  6. instant access to references (multiplication table, mathisfun.com search bar, math handbook, sample problem)
  7. actively demonstrate an understanding of all: vocabulary, elements, rules, procedures, justification (what, why, how, when)
  8. substitute constructive assessment (project/product) for passive pencil and paper assessment (quizzes, tests)
  9. visual timer
  10. chunk work time: 15-20 minutes
  11. substitute active learning (stand up, reason aloud, illustrate, color-code) for passive learning (sit, listen, watch, worksheets)
If we did a brain scan on Linda, we'd likely see that the parts of the brain that show activity when doing math in normal people are not activated. Dyscalculia results from brain differences that we cannot correct. Dyscalculics do not respond typically to math instruction, and experience impaired quantitative perception, reasoning, processing, memory, and recall.

Dyscalculics are usually very capable in reading and writing, (as is Linda) and it is imperative that Dyscalculics learn to reason quantitatively using the language of mathematics. (Math must be taught as a foreign language.)

I advised Linda to ask for an incomplete but to continue to attend class and do all required work. Linda requires extended time to complete the course because she is not currently passing (this is her 4th attempt), in spite of doing all homework and regular attendance. I believe she could pass the class if she was allowed to substitute projects in place of sitting for exams.

Constructive forms of assessment (projects/products) are graded with a rubric. All of the points measured by a paper test are measured by a product. The student must create a product that successfully demonstrates a deep understanding of all vocabulary, concepts, and procedures. Her product can be a study guide, book, website, presentation, or video. It will be graded on the extent to which she communicates an understanding of all points being measured. Did she effectively illustrate, color-code, and extensively explain the ideas?


































I am happy to discuss this with you. You can reach me at (313) 300-1901.






























Please explore www.dyscalculia.org. Stanford University has done extensive research on dyscalculia. You can find Dr. Menon under the EXPERTS tab.

It is also reasonable to change to PASS/FAIL grading so that the disability does not directly impact the GPA. Linda has excellent grades in all other subjects.

Another reasonable option is to grant a waiver for the required math course. Course waiver is the best way to facilitate degree and program compl
etion. Linda is working as a paralegal and is working toward a paralegal certificate and a paralegal associate's degree. She wants the option to attend law school.



































Thank you for working as a team for an educational solution for Linda.





















































Friday 11/2/18


After all of my running around, my crying, and migraines, I found that the very people that I ran to for help, were the folks that were judgmental and lacked understanding. I do not have difficulty with daily routines, work, or activities. I have difficulty with MATH. I am not crazy or mentally ill. I am emotionally drained by trying to figure out how to complete my educational requirements when math is a significant struggle. It's like having a brain freeze that a missing pupil eyeball could not understand. If you are not an educated person who can diagnose dyscalculia, please keep your opinions to yourself. "Oh, I think she has a general anxiety disorder." What hell! I have dyscalculia! I know my symptoms. My emotional breakdown came from failing a math exam, not from not being able to do daily activities. I'm pissed.

Today Mrs. Newman wrote the Math Dean this letter:








Thank you for your note and for taking Linda's concerns seriously. 


After interviewing Linda extensively and reviewing her Dyscalculia and Learning Disabilities screeners, it is probable that she has a specific learning disability/disorder in mathematics (dyscalculia). 


Disability Services hired a new LD Specialist who will assess Linda for learning disorders this week. She was also referred to the school's Psychological Services for anxiety. 


Linda withdrew from the math course but will continue to attend regularly because the instructor advised her to try and to add the course back if she is able to get accommodations to pass. She was also advised of the new law affecting math course requirements


Math Anxiety  

Linda experiences severe math anxiety that significantly inhibits math performance. Please note that math anxiety is a symptom, not a cause, of dyscalculia. It is akin to a PTSD response to math, triggered by a lifetime of frustration in mathematics in spite of earnest effort and a will to succeed.  It also results when cognitive load exceeds working memory and processing capacities. 


It is imperative to prevent the anxiety response in dyscalculics. This can be achieved by reducing cognitive load and by allowing the student to employ proven strategies to mitigate these dyscalculic characteristics:

number mixups, insufficient working memory, impaired and inconsistent memory and retrieval, faulty reasoning, impaired sequential/procedural memory, becomes easily overwhelmed/mental static/cognitive shutdown/confusion/inability to function.


Effective  Strategies to Mitigate the Impact of Dyscalculia on Math Performance

1) reason aloud verbally

2) illustrate

3) extra time to triple-check element accuracy (perception, decoding, interpretation, processing/reasoning/problem-solving, encoding/writing)

4) color-code and graphically organize elements while working

5) isolate digits and chunk elements

6) instant access to references (multiplication table, mathisfun.com search bar, math handbook, sample problem)

7) student must actively demonstrate understanding of: vocabulary, elements, rules, procedures, justification (what, why, how, when)

8) substitute constructive assessment (project/product) for passive pencil and paper assessment (quizzes, tests)

9) visual timer

10) chunk work time 15-20 minutes

11) substitute active learning (stand up, reason aloud, illustrate, color-code) for passive learning (sit, listen, watch, worksheets)



BRAIN BASIS

If we did a brain scan on Linda, we'd likely see that the parts of the brain that show activity when doing math in normal people are not activated.  Dyscalculia results from brain differences that we cannot correct. Dyscalculics do not respond typically to math instruction, and experience impaired quantitative perception, reasoning, processing, memory, and recall. 


Dyscalculics are usually very capable in reading and writing, (as is Linda) and it is imperative that Dyscalculics learn to reason quantitatively using the language of mathematics. (Math must be taught as a foreign language.)


ADVISING

I advised Linda to ask for an incomplete but to continue to attend class and do all required work. Linda requires extended time to complete the course because she is not currently passing (this is her 4th attempt), in spite of doing all homework and regular attendance. I believe she could pass the class if she was allowed to substitute PROJECTS in place of sitting for exams. 

 

Constructive forms of assessment (project/product) are graded with a rubric. All of the points measured by a paper test are measured by a product. The student must create a product that successfully demonstrates a deep understanding of all vocabulary, concepts, and procedures. Her product can be a study guide, book, website, presentation, or video. It will be graded on the extent to which she communicates an understanding of all points being measured.  Did she effectively illustrate, color-code, and extensively explain the ideas?


It is also reasonable to change to PASS/FAIL grading so that the disability does not directly impact the GPA. Linda has excellent grades in all other subjects. 


Another reasonable option is to grant a waiver to the required math course. Course waiver is the best way to facilitate degree and program completion. Linda is working as a paralegal and is working toward a paralegal certificate and a paralegal associate's degree. She wants the option to attend law school.



MORE ABOUT DYSCALCULIA

  

Please explore www.dyscalculia.org.  Stanford University has done extensive research on dyscalculia.  Dr. Menon is #2 under the EXPERTS tab.  Video: Dyscalculia Signs and Research.  








































































































































































Monday 11/5/18   I drove 45 minutes to the disabilities office to meet with the director and was stood up. They were so disorganized. As I walked in, they said he was pulled into a last-minute meeting. We need to talk about the person who is supposed to test me for dyscalculia. Does she have any experience with this? The director spoke to Mrs. Newman for more than an hour and told her that the learning disabilities specialist would test me but would not call it dyscalculia, just a learning disability, and that she was properly qualified to conduct these tests. Even the DS director doesn't really know about dyscalculia. He thinks I just have math anxiety. Everybody seems to think that. I will be taking their statistics class and this disability is not going away. I am seeking the assistance that I need to be able to do the work to get my college degree. 

Advice from the Math Dean on 10-31-18:  The Math Dean cannot tell the instructor what to do, so I have to deal with the teacher directly. The Dean is responsible for evaluations, as in guaranteeing that instructors teach and grade according to the syllabus; and the instructor must honor all accommodations approved by the Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS). School policy is that Incomplete grades are only allowed when the student is passing the class by the final drop deadline but is unable to complete the course, due to unforeseen circumstances. (Typically, students make up the final exam and work from the last three weeks of the class.) I can't get an Incomplete just because I  need more time. Exceptions can be made to academic policies (especially if requested by DSPS) but approval must come from Academic Affairs administration, based on a plan detailing the work due, the time frame, and the evaluator. I might petition for, and get, a waiver of the math requirement for the Associates Degree, if I only need the Paralegal Certificate; and by January 2019, a math class might not be required for an AA degree.