Queer Studies, Special Education, and Mathematics

I recently read educator James Sheldon’s paper删除奇怪的主题,构建残疾人的主题:迈向数学残疾的调理(这些问题)在Queer研究领域的相关数学缺失讨论了特殊教育数学课程未能为其预期服务的学生提供的方式,并提出通过Queerness镜头来观察性能的差异而不是缺陷帮助为所有学生提供资源以在数学中取得成功。Sheldon还提出了当前衡量学生表现的手段,例如Woodcock-Johnson评估。Students who show a discrepancy between ability and achievement are diagnosed with learning disorders, but the Woodcock-Johnson assessment tests mathematical ability in terms of “rote arithmetic computation, calculation speed, word problems, and some very basic factual questions about mathematics.” As Sheldon points out, these are not always true indicators of mathematical competency—it is possible to be a successful professional mathematician and yet regularly make arithmetic errors. Thus, students may be unfairly diagnosed as deficient in mathematical skill and placed in special education classes that may not serve their actual needs. Furthermore, Sheldon suggests that special education curricula emphasizes problem-solving through recognition of problem types and rote application of pre-determined algorithms. While this approach may work for arithmetic and basic algebra problems, it ignores the multiplicity of approaches to even simple problems, forcing students to use the system preferred by the teacher rather than one that works for them. Additionally, it fails to prepare them for more advanced mathematics, in which the “correct” approach to a problem may not be defined. I confess I don’t know much about the field of special education, but I found Sheldon’s paper interesting and many of the general points made resonated with my experience as a math student. Even in my standard-curriculum high school math classes, coursework was mainly focused on problem recognition and rote application of algorithms, in contrast to the argument construction and unknown-type problem solving required in college and graduate math classes. I would recommend giving the paper a look even if queer studies or special education are subjects you don’t usually read about.

About Maya Sharma



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