1999 Conference Proceedings

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TEACHING MATHEMATICS TO STUDENTS WITH PHYSICAL DISABILITIES USING THE WORLD WIDE WEB: THE PLANEMATH PROGRAM.

Lewis E. Kraus
InfoUse, 2560 Ninth Street, Suite 216,Berkeley, CA 94710,
kraus@infouse.com

INTRODUCTION

InfoUse has conducted a three year project entitled "An Internet-Based Curriculum on Math and Aeronautics for 4th -7th Grade Children with Physical Disabilities" with funding through a cooperative agreement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA's award, which is administered through the High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) Office as part of NASA's Learning Technologies Program (LTP) program and NASA-Ames Research Facility at Moffett Field, was given as one of eight such awards for developing new ways of teaching science, mathematics, engineering, and aeronautics through developing new Internet-based information technologies.

This project has created on-line lessons and activities on math and aeronautics aimed at improving education and career options for children with physical disabilities. This project has developed a specialized program, drawing from existing curricula, available materials and assistive technology, and using the Internet to support an interactive education experience. The project targeted schools nationally. The on-line lessons and activities have been useful to students in mainstream, general education, and special education settings.

The genesis of this project was based around two issues. The first issue came from awareness that, around the 4th grade, current mathematics curricula are highly reliant on students' ability to use manipulables such as paper and pencil, calculators, or three-dimensional geometric models. Children with disabilities that affect their ability to manipulate objects (cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, specific hand/arm conditions, etc.) are clearly at an academic disadvantage. The second issue came from the realization that physically disabled children may not consider or be prepared for career possibilities in aeronautics or the importance of mathematics in pursuing these careers. The Internet, with its multimedia and communication capabilities, holds great potential for allowing these issues to be addressed.

PROJECT MISSION AND GOALS

The stated mission of this project was "To stimulate and motivate students with physical disabilities in grades 4-7 to pursue aeronautics-related careers via the development and delivery of accessible math education materials on the Internet." From this mission, we developed four goals: Improve access to mathematics and aeronautics curricula materials for 4th-7th graders with physical disabilities (Accessibility); Improve mathematics proficiency outcomes among 4th-7th grade students with physical disabilities (Math Proficiency); Inspire and motivate students with physical disabilities to pursue aeronautics-related careers (Aeronautics Careers); and Increase access to, and use of, digital communication and multimedia technology among children with physical disabilities (Innovative Use of Technology).

PRODUCT

The World Wide Web site at www.planemath.com contains lessons and provides mathematical exercises using examples from aeronautics that are maximally accessible by children with physical disabilities. The activities are based on national mathematics standards and aeronautic content guidelines. The Web site also contains "help" information, information for teachers/parents, opportunities for users to find out more about aeronautics from experts/role models, and links to other related Web sites in mathematics, disabilities, and aeronautics. The target age level for year 1 was 4th grade, for year 2 was 5th grade and for year 3 was 6th and 7th grades.

TIMEFRAME

In the first year, the project established Internet access at school sites while designing and installing fourth grade level World Wide Web-based and instructional lessons. The lessons, written in HTML, are competency-based, with learning goals in math, aeronautics, and in the use of the Internet as a learning resource. The second year expanded the curriculum to 5th grade level mathematics, delivering additional lessons to the user site through Shockwave movies for interactive, real-time learning on the Internet. The third year created curriculum-based materials for 6th and 7th grade level mathematics, stressed exploration in science and math, accommodated advances in assistive technology, and evaluated the interest level of students using the website.

PROJECT RESOURCES

While the project draws on the proven multimedia, accessibility, and education skills of staff at InfoUse, the project has a variety of resources. The Center for Accessible Technology, an Alliance for Technology Access (ATA) site in Berkeley, California participated in curriculum research, accessibility issues and activity design. California State Polytechnic University, Pomona provided Internet server access, demonstrations and presentations, and hosted teacher groups. Kinko's and Sprint have donated the use of their 300 nationwide videoconference sites for wide spread teacher training. More than a dozen software vendors and publishers have donated software for participating schools. An expert advisory panel of teachers, administrators, and individuals with specific expertise in math, aeronautics, disability, and Internet provided feedback to the project at various stages during the project.

CURRICULUM DESIGN

Research into classical and non-classical approaches to teaching math and interviews with teachers, administrators and experts in math curricula revealed the following educational approaches and content needs for students to be served in this project:Outcome-based education; An active role for students in their learning; Use of careers and role models as goals to learning; Cooperative work/Team or Peer Teaching (e.g., semester-long group investigation and group problem solving); Use real-world experiences to teach math (e.g., exploration, discussion and activities that mirror the mathematical problems encountered by pilots); Multi-cultural math treatments; Appropriate presentations of persons with disabilities, females and males, and people of various ethnicities and races. The program should augment existing learning materials, not be a comprehensive mathematics curriculum.

CONTENT

We selected topics for inclusion into the program that are consistent with current educational practices and standards. These topics are presented in ways that are meaningful to a range of learners in today's classrooms. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Standards and state mathematics frameworks provided the mathematics content which needed to be covered; national aeronautics curricula were reviewed for age-appropriate content that could be taught with mathematical concepts.

Math content covered includes:estimation; measurement; number sense and numeration; whole number computation; whole number operations; geometry; statistics and probability; patterns and relationships; and fractions and decimals. Aeronautics content covered includes:history of aerospace; kinds and uses of aircraft; parts of an airplane; why airplanes fly; weather; instruments and navigation; and airports.

ACCESSIBILITY

The project established criteria for, and is a model for, the design of World Wide Web pages with accessibility issues, needs, and equipment in mind. Of particular emphasis are consistent placement of hot links, parallel pages of text only (no graphics), and non-scrolling pages. Browser preferences allow accessibility through font, color, and page size adjustment.

The project also established a design by which more interactive capabilities provided by the plug-in Shockwave can be accessible. Single keystroke access was established for activities designed in Shockwave.

BIBLIOGRPAHY

AVIATION CURRICULUM GUIDE FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL LEVEL, SECONDARY SCHOOL LEVEL. Aimee Dye. U.S. Dept. of Transportation, Federal Aviation Admin. (APA-5-145-83)

CURRICULUM AND EVALUATION STANDARDS FOR SCHOOL MATHEMATICS. (June, 1989). National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Working Groups of the Commission on Standards for School Mathematics of the NCTM. Reston, VA.

MATHEMATICS FRAMEWORK FOR CALIFORNIA PUBLIC SCHOOLS. KINDERGARTEN THROUGH GRADE TWELVE. (1996). California Department of Education, Sacramento.


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