Make Mathematics Instruction Accessible and Engaging for all Students

girl doing math

There are many students, both with and without disabilities, who struggle with math.  Not only are these students at a disadvantage in terms of the practical skills they will need throughout their lives, but they also often miss out on the fun and beauty that can be found in the world of mathematics.  Mathematics is more than numbers and basic operations; it is a pure logic system and a language all its own, and the discipline that connects all other disciplines.  Educators and families can open up this world to all students by finding ways to make math education engaging and accessible.

 Here are some helpful hints and strategies:

  • Make sure to provide appropriate reading accommodations and support for students.  Reading comprehension can be a serious barrier to math instruction for many students, but it doesn't have to be.  Take steps to ensure that students understand written directions, word problems and other text-based content, so they can show what they know and so they don't miss out on important concepts.

  • Reinforce basic skills with frequent practice by incorporating skills-maintenance activities into lessons on new material.  Students often forget certain rules for computation and steps in more complex operations without regular opportunities to use these skills, so ensure that students maintain a strong foundation to support new concepts and material.

  • Align instruction for all students with grade-level curriculum standards.  Although students who struggle in math may need time to work on fundamentals, it is important that they have access to the full math curriculum.  

  • Look for opportunities to foster group work and peer coaching.  With adequate support and supervision, students can learn from each other in unique ways and can team up in applying their problem-solving skills.

  • Look for ways to help students make practical connections between math concepts and the world around them.  There are direct connections between math and such disciplines as science and engineering, but you can also challenge students to explore ways in which their own interests relate to the field of mathematics.

  • Hands-on activities can increase engagement for many learners.  Topics such as measurement, geometry and physics naturally lend themselves to hands-on learning, and can be tied in to a number of other math concepts and skills.

  • The internet is a good resource for educators looking to differentiate instruction for diverse learners in their classrooms.  Check out the Addressing Accessibility in Mathematics website for a variety of Accessibility Strategies and Tools, at:

  • Addressing Accessibility in Mathematics is a project of Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) that provides information and resources to "teachers and administrators to make middle school mathematics more accessible to a wide range of students, particularly those with special needs."  The website features downloadable PDF documents of Accessibility Strategies, Accessibility Tools, and Guiding Questions to help educators use these resources.  Accessibility Strategies to Consider– A list of strategies to consider when planning and teaching accessible lessons (1 page). Guiding Questions for Accessibility Strategies– Guiding questions for planning, implementing, and evaluating strategies (1 page).

  • Interactive math resources for teachers, parents, and students featuring free math worksheets, math games, math flashcards, and more.

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