Re-inventing math education for neurodiverse students was the inspiration behind bringing internationally recognized math expert, Christopher Woodin to the Dallas Academy campus this summer. His two-day visit included a coaching workshop during which Dallas Academy teachers practiced Woodin math with Dallas Academy students while Mr. Woodin provided real-time coaching and discussion. The second day, Mr. Woodin presented teaching methods that are designed whole to part and require minimal language demands, multimodal strategies to help students express, relate, store, and retrieve information efficiently.
Mr. Woodin is a specialist in the fields of mathematics and learning differences and the Ammerman Chair of Mathematics at Landmark School in Massachusetts. In addition to authoring two books and multiple journal articles, Mr. Woodin has presented at numerous international Learning Disabilities Association (LDA) and International Dyslexia Association (IDA) conferences and led math workshops to audiences across the world.
Woodin’s approach is quite different from how most of us were taught math, and it is different from most modern curriculum approaches as well. Students with dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities who are confused by typical math instruction can excel when instructed in a way that always shows the big picture first, uses visual-spatial images, and directly examines how the parts are connected to the whole. Number sense is developed by establishing a robust understanding of quantities so that their values may be compared. The methodology presented enables such comparison by limiting demands on language processing, working memory, and executive function skills.
Dallas Academy is actively using multiple methods presented by Mr. Woodin in their math classes. “It’s about how our teachers can use these tools to support neurodiverse students and adjust what is needed for our students to succeed,” Dr. Mandi Skerbetz says. “We are privileged to have a world leader guiding our teachers in research-based methods teaching math from whole to part and with minimal language demands.”