Category Archives: College and career ready

Math learning disability? There are options for success in high school and beyond

With accommodations, modifications and thoughtful course selection most students who have a learning disability in math are able to make it through elementary and middle school. High schools operate on a different set of rules however, and for some of these students and their parents the path to a diploma can seem like a minefield! North Carolina’s Future-Ready Core Course of Study was designed to satisfy the minimum admission requirements for the University of North Carolina System schools and have all students graduate “college and career ready.”

adamtglass-com[1].jpgThis is a noble, and perhaps necessary, objective. But what about those students whose brains are hard-wired in a way that will always make algebra a foreign language for which there is no translation? The Future-Ready Core requires 4 units of math that include Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, and another math course beyond Algebra 2. The content of the first three courses can also come in the form of integrated Math I, II and III courses, but that does not make it easier to learn.

Fortunately, the activism of the Learning Disabilities Association of North Carolina many years ago still benefits the high school students of today. When Algebra 1 was first added as a graduation requirement a clause was placed in our Public School Law clarifying that:

The State Board (of Education) shall not adopt or enforce any rule that requires Algebra I as a  graduation standard or as a requirement for a high school diploma for any student whose individualized education program (i) identifies the student as learning disabled in the area of mathematics and (ii) states that this learning disability will prevent the student from mastering Algebra I. [N.C.G.S. 115C-81(b)]

Because of this provision in the law, schools have to provide other ways for these students to satisfy the math graduation requirement. The student and parent can consult with school guidance counselors and others to put together an alternative sequence of four math courses that is appropriate for that student. The math sequence must be approved by the school principal in order to satisfy high school graduation requirements. As a general rule, students will still have to take two “pure” math courses, but they may be “Introductory…” or “Foundations…” courses that focus on basic skills.

Many career and technical education (CTE) courses have enough math-related content that they are approved to count as math credits if they are part of a student’s alternative math sequence. In some cases, the student may have to complete a 2-course sequence in order to gain one math credit. The CTE courses also still count as elective credits. Hopefully, students will be able to find eligible CTE courses that relate to either a personal or career interest. Even though no high school offers every possible CTE course, many of them are available as on-line courses through the North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS). The NCVPS can greatly expand the range of course options that can be considered. This can be especially helpful for students in smaller high schools or school systems, or those enrolled in public charter schools.

Using an alternative math sequence may not allow a student to go directly into one of North Carolina’s 4-year public universities, but it can offer a path to a high school diploma. The diploma, in turn, opens the door to lots of possibilities. A student can choose to move directly into the workforce and be able to check “yes” when a job application asks “Did you graduate from high school?” They will be eligible to enroll in any of our community colleges to further their education. Private colleges, trade and technical schools set their own admission requirements. They may be willing to accept a math-challenged student into a major or program that does not require a high level of math skills.

There is no single path to success in high school, or in life. With planning, hard work and perseverance there are few limits to what young people can achieve. Calculators come in handy too!

Explore careers (really) early

NEWSMILEYCUT[1].jpgPeople often ask young children “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Very young children will typically respond with something like football player, firefighter, doctor or princess. Their list of options is limited by their experience, or lack thereof. They see athletes on television; visit doctors and nurses in their offices; community helpers are introduced in preschool and kindergarten; and there is no shortage of princesses in storybooks and children’s movies. The odds are very against children ending up in the jobs that they talked about when they were 5 or 7 years old. However, there are things that we can do to expose children to many more of the hundreds of the different types of jobs and careers that are out there.

Children come into contact with people who work in a wide variety of careers, but they just don’t know  what the job titles or responsibilities are. Parents and other adults can take advantage of natural opportunities to help children learn more about the world of work. A routine visit to the grocery store could lead to discussion about the work of anyone, from the obvious cashier and stock person to the baker, meat cutter or store manager. It’s hard to not see people who drive trucks, buses, and taxis for a living. If you are lucky enough to live in NASCAR country there might even be a chance to watch race car drivers and their crews take driving to the extreme!

A trip through an airport also offers almost endless possibilities for talking about the different kinds of work that people do to help passengers and make air travel happen. Some manufacturers will schedule tours through their plants so that visitors can see how things are made. This might be possible with some power or water-processing plants. Art festivals offer a chance to look at many types of creative occupations. You might see sculptors, painters, photographers, glass blowers, potters, quilters and jewelry makers.

Just like kids gradually increase their vocabulary to go from calling all canines “dog” to recognizing and naming several breeds of dogs, we can help them become more specific in their understanding of some professions over time. You can help interested children and youth learn about the different specialties that lawyers and doctors practice. And just think about all of the different occupations that make hospitals work!

The opportunities to explore jobs are all around us. We just need to use them to help our children learn more about their world and the role that they may want to play in it when they become adults. Not everyone is going to become a firefighter who save lives and homes. Some people will have jobs of designing, building, inspecting and maintaining those homes, and so on….  So many choices!