know from research and practical experience that post-institutionalized
children are often academically delayed, have troubles with concentration
and, most important, have abruptly lost their native language and a
host of skills rooted in the language. No wonder that in older adaptees
math becomes one of the first casualties of the transitional period.
Thus, the adjustments and modifications in Math teaching and tutoring
become imperative for the education of many school age IA children.
In this and the
next Newsletter we publish some recommendations on how to address the
notorious issue, compiled and adapted for internationally adopted children
by B. Gindis Ph.D.
Mathematics has its own vocabulary,
and this terminology needs to be specifically taught to IA children.
It is unlikely that they learn it on their own efficiently; they may
have difficulty following verbal explanations and the steps of complex
Teaching key math terms as a specific skill rather than
an outcome of basic math practice is essential for a recently arrived
IA child. Math terms may include words such as "sum," "difference,"
"quotient," "proper fraction," etc. and may be listed
and displayed in the classroom to help jog the child's memory during
independent assignments. It's imperative to make sure that the child
identifies the overall process involved in the lesson (i.e. when solving
addition problems the child has to say: "Addition is combining
sets" rather than silently practicing with numerals on a worksheet).
It may take repeated teacher modeling, patient reminding, and much practice
to utilize these techniques.
Equally important is frequently asking the child to verbalize
what she is doing. Having the child regularly"play teacher"
can be not only enjoyable, but also necessary for learning the complexities
of the language of math. Also, understanding for all children tends
to be more complete when they are required to explain, elaborate, or
defend their position to others; the burden of having to explain often
acts as the extra push needed to connect and integrate their knowledge
in crucial ways.
Dealing with Impulsivity
IA children often react to math problem descriptions as
signals to do something rather than meaningful instructions that need
to be understood. They need to develop a habit of reading and repeating
instructions for a problem before and/or after the computation, chunking
a problem into small steps. By attending to a simple step at a time
they can monitor more of the attentional slips and careless errors.
Teachers should encourage an IA child to:
- Stop after each answer.
- Read aloud the problem and the answer.
- Listen to herself and ask herself: "Does that
Dealing with lack of concentration
At the beginning of academic remediation in math, an
IA child will benefit from modification of instructional time. By all
means avoid instructional time that includes a long stretch of independent
practice: the child should not work on a large number of math problems
without feedback from the teacher prior to completion. The periods of
guided practice need to be longer and more frequent. Alternatively,
at home or at school the children can use a self-checking computer software
Due to academic delays, memory and knowledge base gaps
most post-institutional children will benefit from periodic and regular
reviews of previously covered material. Each new unit must include a
brief review of the previously covered and mastered knowledge and skills.
Dealing with lack of motivation
Modifying and varying reinforcement patterns is essential
for an IA child who may often be "person-oriented" (looking
for an adult's approval) vs. goal-oriented (looking for a personal achievement
or completion of a task". The adaptation of reinforcement and acknowledgment
of a child's progress begins with teachers' awareness of different reinforcement
patterns. Beyond the "traditional" mathematical reinforcement
style, which concentrates on obtaining the "right answer,"
an IA child may benefit from alternative reinforcement patterns that
provide positive recognition for completing the correct steps in a problem
regardless of the outcome. By concentrating on the process of mathematics
rather than on the product, the child may begin to feel some control
over her activity. In addition, teachers can isolate the source of difficulty
and provide for specific accommodations in that area. For example, if
a child has developed the ability to replicate the steps in a long division
problem but has difficulty remembering the correct multiplication facts,
the teacher should reward the appropriate steps and provide a calculator
or multiplication chart to increase the child's ability to obtain the
solution to the problem.