Ablenet Equals -- A Mathematics Curriculum for Students with Disabilities

A Curriculum Anchored in Standards, But Designed for Differences

Equals Logo. Ablenet

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Equals is a special education mathematics curriculum designed for a range of disabilities. There are resources for teaching children with disabilities, like Touch Math, but this is probably the only curriculum designed specifically for children with serious differences. It's strength is the fact that it reflects the breadth of the mathematics curriculum most states cover in their standards.

It's weakness is that it is somewhat unwieldy, and really needs the support of training and ongoing leadership from a curriculum specialist or coordinator.

Assessment

Divided into 12 "Chapters" the curriculum ascends from "attending," to fractions, covering calculation, geometry, problem solving, and functional math skills.

Designed to accommodate students from the severely disabled to the mildly disabled, the program can support students alongside typically developing students, possibly entering junior high with similar competencies to their peers. It can also help more severely disabled students to build a basic level of mathematical literacy, without perhaps the same level of skills.

Equals provides it's own assessment program with flip books and test booklets which can be easily administered and scored. The program also provides guidelines for matching scores to the place were a disabled student will need to begin the program.

For children who have acquired some math skills, they may be able to start in chapter 3 or 6. For children with more serious disabilities, they may need to start at chapter 1, and may move more slowly through the curriculum.

Differentiation

Each lesson begins with a warm up, continues with exploration at the three levels (severe, moderate and mild disabilities.) Each lesson continues with "Introduce and Connect" which builds on prior knowledge, Teach, Problem Solving and Close, with the lesson presentation providing for each of the three levels.

Each lesson is followed by problem solving, work stations (learning centers) and games.

The program comes with a complete set of high quality math manipulates and materials. The materials include work mats, designed to structure instruction using the manipulates. Brightly colored and attractive, they provide a good alternative to pencil and paper, as well as accommodating different means of responding, from placing counters on the chart, to using eye gaze to identify the correct response. A printed set is included in the boxed curriculum set, but are also on the CD Rom provided by the publisher.

The scope and sequence lay out the differences as well, suggesting a mildly disabled students needs three days to cover a lesson, whereas a severely disabled child might need three weeks to master the same material.

Equals also provides strong materials to support functions skills, such as money, time and measurement.

Resources

The kit includes an attractive set of high quality materials to support instruction. Rather than cheesy, poor quality counters, the kit includes well made items available through Abilification. Obviously, Ablenet wanted to provide materials that should hold up and provide service for years.

Which is good, since at $1,700 a kit, this is not cheap materials.

The kit also comes with a CD Rom with printable resources: the work mats, the activity cards, all the paper resources required for the program. Obviously new, the CD is not easy to use. When you open the CD it's hard to see which icon you should click on: I recommend files. The others require that you save the documents before you can open them. I'm sure that this will be worked out in future editions, though it's a bit of a challenge now. I hope your district is also willing to invest in a color printer for your desk. I know a lot of districts are trying to save toner costs by making everyone print to a shared laser printer, but these materials will be most attractive for visual learners if you can make them in color.

Recommendation

This is a great program for a district that is going to make the commitment to support the materials with workshops, training and trained curriculum specialists. Like Everyday Math, the materials provide lots of concrete support to help scaffold the cognitive challenges of math for disabled students. Like Everyday Math, teachers need to understand the different conceptual structures they are using to support deeper math understanding.

This is also not "cheap" materials. At $1,700 a classroom, it's a major economic commitment on the part of the district. Still, if a district uses the program to parallel the main curricular materials, it has the potential to bring mildly disabled students to a parallel place with typically developing students by middle school. The disadvantage of Touch Math is that it often locks kids into a single strategy for doing functional math. The strength of Equals is that it provides broad mathematical instruction. But buyer beware: it does not free a special education teacher from the need to collect data and be attentive to functional math skills, especially those needed to thrive in the community.

So, if you think Equals may work for your district, and you can get the commitment of your special education director and the "powers that be," contact Ablenet and check it out.

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