Math teaching improves for students with disabilities

The Maine Department of Education provided three of its five days of intensive Foundations of Math training last month to some 30 educators in the Lewiston-Auburn and Turner areas. The rest of the training will take place in early August. The training is an integral piece of Maine DOE’s “Math4ME” special education initiative, designed to improve math achievement for Maine students with disabilities.

Deputy Commissioner Bill Beardsley learns Foundations of Math teaching practices

Deputy Commissioner Bill Beardsley attended the third day of the training. He spent the morning learning and working with the teachers on the math teaching concepts. “This is fascinating,” Beardsley said. State Director of Special Services Jan Breton said, “This is an exciting time as the strength of this program is in the strategies used in teaching teachers how to teach concepts.”

The greater focus for the first few years of this program will be on students with disabilities in grades K through eight. Trends from the past five years show that students with disabilities score significantly lower on math assessments than their peers who are in regular education. As proven in North Carolina, the Foundations of Math program has resulted in greater gains for students with disabilities.

The program complements existing curriculum by using hands-on explanation, coupled with the verbal interaction which allows teachers to teach math through showing by doing. The program will be taught in the Geiger Elementary School in Lewiston, the Sherwood Heights Elementary School in Auburn, RSU 52’s Leeds Central School and Greene Central School, along with the Margaret Murphy Center in Auburn (which is a special purpose private school).

The Foundations of Math program is about solving problems and improved number sense. “Number sense” is to math what “reading comprehension” is to reading (Journal of Special Education) and is designed to improve instructional practices resulting in improved math achievement for students with disabilities. “Evidence from North Carolina causes us to have a strong belief that we can improve math results in Maine as a result of this project,” Breton said.

Co-developers Drs. Chris Cain and Valarie Faulkner were on site for the training to provide hands-on Foundations of Math training. Maine DOE envisions long-term growth and expansion of the project over the next five years with more educator training provided in school districts throughout the State.

Breton said, “Along with the teachers learning through this training, when the next school year begins, there will be weekly coaching, modeling and mentoring in all four schools as this program kicks off with the start of the new school year.”

Foundations of Math training is funded through funds awarded to Maine from the US DOE Office of Special Education Programs.

For more information about Foundations of Math and “Math4ME,” contact Consultant for Students with Disabilities Jayne Chase at