Thoughts – Lessons–Teachings

Thoughts – Lessons–Teachings

I write about ideas that support those who are teaching, strengthening and encouraging struggling math students or children learning math or literacy skills for the first time.

Orton-Gillingham Math Lessons – Guide – Not Control

Differentiating these two is crucial. Teaching your students self- correction strategies is the key.

“Some things are up to us, and some things are not up to us.” — Epictetus

I teach math to children with learning difficulties, dyslexia and what the DSM 5 calls a specific learning disorder in mathematics. Such a disorder can be designated as mild, moderate or severe. Needless to say, these students have often experienced early learning challenges in their classroom which leave a residue of uncertainty about learning new things. Their reluctance becomes compounded when a variety of fixes have been attempted that didn’t result in significant improvement.

Read more or watch and listen here.

When these students enroll in Orton Gillingham (OG) Math lessons, they’re naturally hesitant to engage in a yet another new approach. There is resistance, and let’s be honest, such resistance can be a warning sign that the student will resist my attempts to engage them.  It can cause you or me to become inflexible in our instruction to counter a student’s resistance. That’s not the answer.

Give up your need to control everything in your math lessons. Remember, your lesson plan is your guide, if you know which concept is next in your plan for your student then the diagnostic – prescriptive OG  Math Approach makes mistakes and recovery from them a natural part of the math lesson. That's math instruction that works for students. 

OG Math students are taught multisensory, interactive strategies and procedures. They know this as “Say it and do it.” As the instructor, you will model the method and the student will repeat and practice it. If there is an error in the procedure, the visual and multisensory strategies provide a kinesthetic trigger for self-correction. If the student’s confidence begins to flag, a quick intervention helps the student to stay on track. And the great reward is that you can relax and detach from the things you cannot control in the lesson, focus on the ones you can, and know that sometimes, the only thing you will be able to control is your attitude towards your student and the lesson.

Enjoy your students and remember: “Sometimes it takes a wrong turn to get you to the right place.”

Marilyn Wardrop is a gifted trainer & mentor who helps educators replace or surpass their current math teaching strategies for struggling math students or those children learning math for the first time.

Marilyn’s OG Academic Math training programs have been called the secret weapon of frustrated math instructors. Hundreds…even thousands of educators use OG Math every single day.

Contact Marilyn here anytime. 

Future-Perfect Math – Past Imperfect!

Sometimes, you must build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don't try to forget the mistakes, but you don't dwell on it. You don't let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.    Johnny Cash

Many students who struggle with math come to us with a long story of failure. It is often laid out sequentially in their school testing or assessments, IEP and report cards.

For many parents there is a story of regret that accompanies their child's failure in school. They ask, “Why 

weren’t we able to find my child’s difficulty and provide appropriate reading or math help earlier?” 

And for many teachers or learning support practitioners, our story might be, “Why didn’t they catch this student 

and assess him or her in kindergarten, first or second grade, or when he was always acting out in math class?”

I know I’ve said it,  or at least I know I’ve thought it. That notion of “if only this or that did or didn’t happen”.

The tricky part for all of us, student, parent or teacher, is that we can’t go back one year, one month or even one day. 

So, what’s the solution?

Read more, or watch and listen here.

Start by doing a mind sweep. 

It’s a term I use when my thinking drifts away to thoughts of “if only”. I take a deep breath and begin with my plan for the next lesson. I consider how I can be the one to change things for this student right now.

So both you and I can begin by reshaping the learning environment. Develop math lesson plans that are cumulative, sequential and successful enough to begin to establish a legacy of trust with your student.

Your student’s habits and behaviours from the past will likely be evident. They are often coping skills from past experiences. We can change them with patience and a plan. Be engaged and present with each other.

Orton Gillingham Math lessons are interactive and multisensory. Steps to secure attention and motivate participation are built in. But remember, you must do it too. You must be fully engaged.  Listen intently to your student. He or she will know if you are multitasking and writing away in your lesson plan book or checking your materials when you should be fully participating with them in an interactive math activity. You are the key to accomplishment at that very moment.

Do not dwell in the past. Do not dream of the future, or dwell in the future. Concentrate the mind on the present moment.       Buddha

If we leave the past behind and stop dwelling on what might-have- been, it’s natural to begin to focus on what’s ahead for the student. It might be an uncomfortable image. Struggling math students are usually behind their grade level peers. Sometimes the gap is significant. So, it isn’t unusual to think,

“What will happen next year?

“How will he/she manage the final exams?”

“How can he learn independently later in life?”

“Will she feel like she is making progress?”

 I’ve had those thoughts. It’s fitting to be motivated to do your very best and help your students reach math proficiency. However, it can only be achieved by building in solid math skills. That is the gift of today.  Honor it,  and bring all the joy you can to it.

Marilyn Wardrop is a gifted trainer & mentor who helps educators replace or surpass their current math teaching strategies for struggling math students or those children learning math for the first time.

Marilyn’s OG Academic Math training programs have been called the secret weapon of frustrated math instructors. Hundreds…even thousands of educators use OG Math every single day.

Contact Marilyn here anytime. 

Teaching Math? Give up Perfectionism.

“If you always make the right decision, the safe decision, the one most people make, you will be the same as everyone else.” 

Paul Arden

Give up Perfectionism. Some strategies may be effective but without a long-term plan math difficulties will never get better.

Read more or go here to watch and listen.

I can remember times when fear of failure or to put it another way, fear of letting my student down, prevented me from integrating a new plan into our lessons. I like routine, and my student can count on and trust the cumulative system in OG Math.  By the time they are enrolled in OG Academic Math my students have already experienced frustration and failure with math.

I have confidence in the theories that support Orton Gillingham (OG) Math, so the solution to my fear and perfectionist apprehension is to trust the OG Approach. One key OG procedure  is to spiral back, connect new math information to what is already known, and count on the structure and VAKT instruction to solidify learning and confidence. So, with evidence-based OG theory behind me and a solid approach in front of me, I developed and taught the approach to my students and they progressed.

I didn’t jump in blindly by any means and a few times, yes, I had to have a talk with myself when the individualized pace dictated by my student’s needs wasn’t a match for my wishes for him or her. 

Margaret Rawson, an Orton-Gillingham pioneer understood the challenges faced by struggling students entering OG classes for the first time. She inspired and directed teachers and OG Practitioners to, “Go as fast as we can, taking all the time, we need. “

Ms. Rawson meant that to reach our goals for our students, we need to be keenly aware of the students'  learning pace, not our timeline.That’s good advice for the perfectionist in me. And I'm guessing it applies to some of you too. Otherwise  a lot of successful learning opportunities will be lost while you and I wait for things to be right

Marilyn Wardrop is a gifted trainer & mentor who helps educators replace or surpass their current math teaching strategies for struggling math students or those children learning math for the first time.

Marilyn’s OG Academic Math training programs have been called the secret weapon of frustrated math instructors. Hundreds…even thousands of educators use OG Math every single day.

Is There a Magic Math Bullet?

Magic Bullet: A quick and easy solution to a difficult problem.

It’s a new year! Here in the north west of British Columbia, we are at that time in the school year when the first 4 months have passed. Some of our math students are right on track with the curriculum, some are getting it, and others are struggling. This is the group I’ve made it my mission to help: those students who are struggling with math or those learning math for the first time. 

Once again, it has inspired me to wade into the beginning of a new year with some tips to become successful teaching basic math skills. You don’t always need to add more things — sometimes you need to give some of them up. 

Read about it here or check the video here.

Give Up Believing in the “Magic Math Bullet.”

An old Chinese proverb says,  “It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.”

Yes, it’s true! No matter how much you hope for the one new idea, math worksheet or online math software that will help your struggling students finally “grasp and remember” the math they’ve been toiling with over and over again, it’s probably not going to happen without a solid plan and ongoing practice.

Hey, I know. I’ve been there! I remember teaching my students math tricks that I used myself. I thought they were clever and easy to use. That was my first mistake. In my enthusiasm to help out, I didn’t make certain that my student had the solid underlying math concepts to understand and use the nifty strategy I was trying to teach.

Then there are the snappy new worksheets. In the past, I purchased books of them thinking maybe there was a magical idea in them, or if nothing else, the worksheets would be colorful and fascinating enough to motivate my student toward new learning. But it often wasn’t so.

The wish for overnight transformation is like a fairytale. It has an inspirational plot, some drama and a successful resolution. It goes like this….

My student couldn’t ---------!

He was really struggling and discouraged with ……!

Then we found …………..!

And overnight, he was transformed into --- a budding mathematician?

That scenario is not too likely. At least not in my experience.

Let’s face it. I can be a perfectionist at times. However, when I’ve tried every strategy and trick I know to teach a student the basics of math and it’s not working, I know it’s time to look at a sustainable ongoing plan. Successful teachers know that making small continuous improvements every day will be compounded over time and give them desired results. That is why I suggest that you plan for the future, but focus on the lesson that’s ahead of you, and help your student improve just 1% every day. 

Each small increment of improvement and change will lead to success in the long term.

Marilyn Wardrop is a gifted trainer & mentor who helps educators replace or surpass their current math teaching strategies for struggling math students or those children learning math for the first time.

Marilyn’s OG Academic Math training programs have been called the secret weapon of frustrated math instructors. Hundreds…even thousands of educators use OG Math every single day.

Contact Marilyn here anytime. 

Meg and Greg an Orton Gillingham Resource

The holidays have come and gone. For most of us, life is getting back to the usual pace and routine.

Remember back in a previous article, I wrote how early math skills are a predictor of reading skills? Well of course it's important to teach and practice reading skills along with basic math concepts. 

So as a long time Orton-Gillingham Practitioner, I was excited to receive a copy of a new reading resource that fits perfectly with Orton Gillingham instruction.

The big idea with the book, A Duck in a Sock: Four Phonics Storiesis that it’s designed for shared reading between two people.

How it works: An adult or buddy reads more complex text that keeps the story interesting, while the child reads a simpler level of text that uses a phonics approach. A kid learning to read at an older-than-average age no longer needs to feel bored and demoralized by being given books written for a younger child. This is the debut book for the much-needed new Meg and Greg series. I love it and the book and the OG Practitioners who tired it like it too.

The book was created by Elspeth & Rowena Rae along with the talents of Vancouver-based illustrator Elisa Gutiérrez. More information can be found here.

If you're interested in getting a copy of the book yourself, it is now available in print and e-book versions. You can find it online at AmazonIndigoBarnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo

Good reading resources are hard to find and this one is definitely worth purchasing.

Yes! You Should Teach Orton-Gillingham Math to Preschool Children.

Young children love to touch and feel concrete objects. They love to move and immerse themselves in their surroundings. They are curious about everything around them. Maria Montessori knew this and incorporated sensory activities into early learning lessons. 

Deborah Stipek, a Stanford University professor and former dean of education, has researched how children learn math and best teaching practices for success with math.  She has long predicted that we are not paying enough attention to math instruction in schools. Early math instruction provides children with a strong foundation to build on just as it does for literacy. Her research as well as that of others, points out how, "Math can predict reading success and failure." 

The research is supporting the statement, but so far the reason is not really confirmed. It is thought that perhaps it is related to executive function.  Further research points to how high school math failure begins with early number knowledge in first grade. Preschool children and first graders can learn to love math if it is taught through multisensory methods. 

This is where a passion for math begins, or at the least it eliminates failure. Learn more about Stipek's research and recommendations for early learners here.

Learn more about Multisensory OG Math.

Goldilocks and the “Just Right” Math Lesson Plan

You care about your students, so you know it’s important to plan your instruction well.

When your student or child struggles with basic math concepts, that uncertain feeling in the pit of your stomach starts to simmer when the help you are trying to give doesn’t change the situation.

 You’re trying to help your student catch up, but here’s how it goes; today the focus in the classroom may be addition or subtraction.

You jot down a lesson plan and hunker down for some drill and practice with addition. Ah, it is familiar to your student! So you find some rhythm with your practice and it seems like she gets it. Yes, maybe you are both making some progress! After all, she should know this. Right?

Well yes, she may be familiar with addition and yes, she may know some of the addition facts.

But does she really get it?

The next day tells the tale. Although addition was familiar, it was not secure for mastery. So today you are back to where you were before; reviewing basic addition facts.

Only today, the class is practicing subtraction. Now, you are forced to make a timely decision.

Today’s lesson had better shortcut addition practice and get right into subtraction so she can keep up with the class. But you can’t help having that nagging feeling that you’ve taken a wrong turn. You’ve made a necessary switch, but maybe not one that your student is ready to make.

And it is here where you find out that subtraction is an even less secure skill for her than addition. Your experience tells you that a solid understanding of addition is imperative if your student will truly understand subtraction.  And so it goes. You are unwittingly using the Goldilocks method of lesson planning.

The Goldilocks principle is derived from the children's story "The Three Bears" in which a little girl named Goldilocks finds a house owned by three bears. Each bear has its own favourite porridge, chair and comfortable bed. After testing all three examples of all three items, Goldilocks determines that one of them is always too much in one extreme (porridge too hot, chair too large or bed too hard), one is too much in the opposite extreme (porridge too cold, or bed too soft), and one is "just right".

Similarly, the first plan I described is often intended as a  “catch up plan” which jumps right into the classroom curriculum so the student is up to speed with math concepts lickety-split. Goldilocks would tell you that plan is just too much for a struggling student.  It positions the student and you into a situation of overwhelm.

A second approach is to place the student in an alternate curriculum workbook that is at his own skill level.  But often the struggling student is below the class level. Still it seems like a good alternative plan. Unfortunately, because he is on a different path than the students in his class and working independently, Goldilocks would say there is just too little interaction or timely feedback to be successful.

You want your math lesson plan to be just right and Goldilocks would heartily approve.

So what is just right?

To start with, it is a lesson plan that begins with an accurate look at the skill level of your student as she is right now. That is the diagnostic aspect of the Orton-Gillingham Math Approach. Once you have established a clear idea of your students skill level, you can develop a lesson plan just for her that will review what she knows and includes the next concept that needs to be taught, or in some cases, re-taught. 

But it is not yet a plan that is just right!

Because you need to evaluate how successful the current lesson was before you can plan the next one. That is the prescriptive aspect of Orton Gillingham Math. And that is how we move forward building what we refer to as “tiny habits”. I’ll talk more about them in the next blog article.

Go to this link to learn more about OG (Orton Gillingham) Academic Math.

Or contact OG Math for a private link to the OG Math Online Training Course.

“YES, VIRGINIA, There is An Orton-Gillingham Math”

About Virginia

On Sept. 21, 1897 and eight-year-old girl, Virginia O’Hanlon, wrote a letter to the editor of New York’s Sun Newspaper.  It said,


I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.

Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon. 

115 West Ninety-Fifth Street, NY

The quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial.


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus….."

It was later discovered that the response to Virginia was the work of veteran newsman Francis Church. It has since become history’s most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, on posters, stamps and the Antiques Roadshow …… and now here in an OG Academic Math blog post.

About Orton-Gillingham Math

Time-and-time-again, people contact me asking if there really is an approach to teaching that can be called Orton-Gillingham Math.

Some people think of Orton-Gillingham only as a structured phonics approach for teaching reading to students with dyslexia and learning disabilities.

Other more informed individuals know Orton-Gillingham as an interactive, multisensory, dynamic approach for teaching all aspects of literacy: reading, writing, comprehension and advanced language structures.  The Orton-Gillingham Approach is – and should always be – adaptable, versatile and flexible to individual needs.

Math is a language. It is a precise language. A student’s ability to learn math language and ideas is made more difficult if the student has dyslexia, dyscalculia or a language-based learning disability.

My experience developing and teaching an Orton-Gillingham or OG Approach for Math has allowed me to see many discouraged students blossom in math. Those students who were failing at math leave OG Math lessons not only confident in basic math skills, but also ready and able to build higher math skills on a sturdy math foundation. The students and their OG Math instructors know for certain, there is an Orton-Gillingham Math Approach. And yes, Virginia it really does work!

OG Math Online Training Course

Is it just too challenging to travel to our classroom  training courses?

Contact us here to receive a private link to our OG Math Online Training Course.

Are you interested in learning more about OG Academic Math?

Enter your  name and email here and I'll be sure to send you a link.

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and Math Success  in 2017. 

When You Don’t Take Action

The Effect of Not Doing or Why Not Teach OG Math?

Our actions shape our lives, but when we don't take action it can be just as powerful.

I know! I was reluctant in the beginning of my OG Math journey. In fact I was completely resistant. 

I knew that I was secure in my ability to teach students to read and write fairly confidently with the Orton- Gillingham or OG Approach. But Math! That was for someone else – like maybe a specialized math teacher.

 So I confidently turned down opportunities to assist the students who approached me for help with math. My thinking was that someone else was more qualified to help. Gradually, bit by bit my eyes were opened and my thinking started to change.

Whether you realize it or not, every one of the thoughts you think, the words you speak, and the actions you take contributes to the complex quality of your interactions with your students who count on you for learning support. It simply is not possible to be alive without making an impact on people around us. It is particularly so with our students. If they trust you enough to ask for math help, how can you turn them down?

Every action taken affects your students as greatly as every action not taken. And when it comes to teaching students who struggle with the basics of math, what you choose not to do can be just as important as what you choose to do.

Another way of putting this is if you don’t think you can do it, how will your students believe they can do it? For example, when you sometimes neglect to speak up, vote, or help somebody in immediate need, you are denying yourself the opportunity to be an agent for positive change. Instead, you among others are enabling a particular course to continue unchallenged, picking up speed even as it goes along. By holding the belief that your actions don't make much of a difference, you may find that you often tend to forego opportunities for involvement. On the other hand, if you see yourself as an important participant in the ever-evolving world of your students’ needs, you may feel more inspired to contribute your unique perspective and gifts to carefully structured multisensory math lessons. It is wise to be selective about how and where you are using your energy in order to keep yourself from becoming scattered in your Orton Gillingham lessons. Your OG lessons follow a carefully developed plan. Not every action is appropriate for every person. When a student’s situation catches your attention, however, and speaks to your heart, it is important that you consider how to honor your impulse to help and take the action that feels right for you.

That happened to me when I attended a conference many years ago and heard Dr. Stanley Antonoff speak about how many students with dyslexia were hampered in graduate and professional education by their weak math skills. But what really hit home for me was Dr. Antonoff’s declaration that math is a language.

And very importantly, he stated that people like me who teach students with dyslexia and language based learning challenges, need to acknowledge and address this need.

No matter how proficient a student is in reading and writing, it is not enough if they are failing mathematics.

Orton Gillingham  works wonders for reading and writing skills and often many people don’t think of it for math. But OG Math has the same multisensory, interactive, structured approach as OG language. It may be the answer to your student’s math success. And maybe you’ll feel better knowing you are doing what you can, when it’s needed. Sometimes, it may be your one contribution that makes all the difference. If it seems like something you would like to explore you can contact me here at this

Email or why not take a look here!

The Prospect Centre for Learning is Hiring.

The Prospect Centre for Multisensory Learning in White Rock/South Surrey is currently hiring Orton Gillingham Practitioners. 

At Prospect we know that some children learn differently. That’s why our innovative Orton Gillingham approach is highly individualized, evidence based and designed to meet the learning needs of each student. 

Interested applicants require Orton-Gillingham certification and CATT membership among their other qualifications. Academy certification may be in process if the applicant is qualified. 

After school hours are required. Please send resume and cover letter to the attention of our Executive Director: 

The Prospect Centre for Multisensory Learning is an academic Orton-Gillingham based remediation centre. Prospect Centre utilizes a team approach that optimizes students’ instruction through a collaborative approach led by the Executive Director and including the Office Manager, and OG Practitioners. 

Each staff member’s expertise, creativity and unwavering commitment to each and every student results in the success of our program as we provide educational therapy in reading, spelling, writing or math to students with dyslexia and other learning challenges. 

Extended benefits are available for full time employees 20+ hours/ week when those positions are available. 

A portion of the employee's work schedule may include completion of curriculum materials for the centre and occasional reception/office duties to assist the Office Manager when she is otherwise engaged 

To learn more about our centre, visit our website at: 

We look forward to hearing from you. Resumes and cover letters will be received at References will be contacted during office hours. Only individuals whose resumes suggest they are suitable for the position will be contacted by email for an interview during office hours. 

We look forward to hearing from you.

Be Aware of Educational Promises Too Good to be True!

The Good News for Effective Help and Warning Signs to Avoid Getting Off Track.

Photo courtesy of CollegeDegrees360(CC ShareALike)

The school year is up and running. 

It’s the perfect time for parents and teachers of students who struggle with reading, writing and math skills to think about finding the very best help for their children and students.  

It is also Dyslexia Month; a time to focus on children whose reading and math skills often do not keep up with their peers, or only do so with an extraordinary amount of hard work. 

The International Dyslexia Association or IDA provides excellent guidelines to help parents and teachers find appropriate instruction for these children. 

First the Good News:

Most Reading Difficulties can be resolved or diminished.

IDA has established knowledge and practice standards to inform and develop knowledgeable and skilled teachers so that all students in every classroom can benefit from successful literacy instruction.

The need for good teaching instruction in every classroom has been clearly documented.

The Bad News:

Not all educational promises meet the knowledge and practice standards. Some make promises of a quick fix that are just too good to be true. Others while meaning well, do not provide long term gains that translate into academic success.

IDA cautions parents and teachers to:

Be Aware: parents and educators will do almost anything to help a child who is struggling in school. This makes it all too easy to get taken in by treatments and programs that make big promises, but do little except waste valuable time and resources.Be Wary of: Exaggerated claims, false guarantees, pseudo science and quick fix claims. Be  wary of any approach  that focuses on fixing a single underlying condition to address complex difficulties.

And There is More Good News:

IDA provides guidelines to evaluate treatments and programs for struggling students.

Ask questions. Do treatments and skills gains actually transfer into improved reading, writing, math or study skills?Invest time well for the long term. When a child fails to progress, frustration and loss of self-esteem can be devastating. Time is lost and hopes are dashed.  Best practices and interventions are most effective when the brain is most plastic (or young). Wasting time during the early years can have life-long consequences.

It ‘s important to recognise a solid structured approach to reading and math instruction that will move your child or student forward this school year and those to come.

Take some time to ask the questions you need to ask and consider your educational options without pressure.

We wish you great success in your education journey. 

Marilyn Wardrop and the OG Academic Team

Do You Talk Too Much When You’re Teaching Math?

Do you talk too much during your math lessons?

It’s easy to for you to do, and I understand why!

It is hard to be comfortable with silence.

A word of caution, watch for out for this!

Watch this short video  or continue reading....

As I've mentioned before, many students who struggle with math have processing difficulties or working memory problems. They need time – a lot of time - to process information and take the required action or respond.

So we wait .........  and wait ........... and wait .....  and ......

 Sometimes this can look like they are not paying attention or they are daydreaming. If you know a student has a processing problem then it is important for you to respond with patience and sometimes it means tremendous patience and watchful waiting.

That is why instructors like you and me need to practice  I.A. P. It is short for Intentional Awkward Pause is so named because until it becomes automatic or second nature, it truly does feel awkward for instructors to allow the extra amount of time these students need for processing language and math concepts. 

Time and time again, I have been patiently waiting for a student to respond and just when I am ready to interject a comment, the student responds. Yes, sometimes it really does that long!

I know you and I worry that we will just run out of time to complete a lesson.  That can happen. In this instance it means an adaptation or adjustment must be made to your math lesson and lesson plan.

It is better to delay or skip a task in your current plan and carry it forward until next time in order to end with a successful math lesson.  It may be that you misjudged the appropriate pacing for the student, or it can mean they are just experiencing and off day.

Simply say, “We’ll skip that part today and allow more time for it next time.”

This approach acknowledges that there is an expectation and the task will be completed the next time, and it will be! Because now your lesson plan has been adapted to incorporate the I.A.P. technique.

Keep in touch with OG Math 

Teaching Students Who Struggle With Math: How I Found My OG Math Confidence!

Most of us who teach students with dyslexia and learning disabilities find our way to reams of training on how to impart reading, writing and study skills. In my own search for training, I found that the Orton-Gillingham Approach for literacy instruction was the key for long-lasting results.

Still, when it came to having confidence in my math teaching abilities, it used to be awful. I would sit in my office and pull my hair out. I’d pour over new textbooks until I got dizzy. Then I would look in the mirror and “pull it together” for yet another attempt at teaching math skills to my students who were lacking at a very basic level.

The most I could say is, I did it, using the only methods I knew. But, I hated it and wanted to do it better. I craved a better connection with my students as they worked their way through yet another math problem. I wanted to love teaching math, linger with concepts when things were going well, and really connect.

I eventually got to that point, but it wasn't easy. Finding confidence for teaching struggling students is tricky. You wouldn't be teaching those students without some level of confidence, but it’s usually not enough to address unmet needs with basic math gaps that have been missed. If it was enough, you would have that feeling. We've all had the feeling of knowing that you’re not responding, answering, deciding, doing and being exactly what your students need right now, even if it was generated by someone else. Creating confidence for yourself, by yourself, using math tools that you have control over, is the ultimate freedom. I say it is a freedom we all craved when we set out on this crazy journey of teaching students who are behind in class, have dyslexia and learning disabilities.

Confidence in its purest form is a way of being. You do understand what I mean by that, right? Don’t get me wrong. I mean no lack of respect, but do you? 

The simple act of just “being” has been forgotten in a world that accepts multitasking as a fundamental skill for everything and the quick fix of technology as a normal way to interact with students.  But “being” is an easy thing to identify, if you know what you are looking for.

Let’s take a look at some ways of “being:”

Be present: Having presence is allowing your mind to turn off its inner voice and allowing your ears to open up to what others are saying. It means listening without anticipating what’s going to said before it is actually voiced. In fact, listening without assumption is perhaps the most important skill to cultivate if you want to create presence.  

It’s probably natural for our minds to assume what students know, what they are going to say, already creating judgements and then reactions. We then worry what we will do next or say in response, and, before we know it, we haven’t really listened, heard, felt or experienced that student at all. We use all of our senses, of course, but listening (hearing) is the easiest one to use and the first one that will create presence. Honour the time you created for a teaching moment and use it for that, nothing more. Multitasking has its purpose. I use it all the time in my teaching preparation and office tasks. But multitasking won’t help you build confidence. It leads to a lack of attention to what you are doing with your student at that moment, and that means your assessments are off. Build confidence in yourself through being present. Listen stronger.

Be intentional:Once you recognize this, many of you will see that intention is all about honest actions that focus on the current topic, cause, conversation and student. You can only be intentional if you listen—which is starting to turn into a theme for this article. Bringing intention to your interactions will make you show up and respond in ways that make students feel heard and important. You gain respect.You are appreciated for your ability to be with that student, and, thereby, your confidence is built. Hone the skills you learned in OG Math training through practice. If you are teaching from notes, you have not mastered the skill yourself yet – and that’s okay! Take some time – 15 minutes per day –  to practice the new approach before teaching it to a student. Our students are counting on our practised and expert interpretation of a skill to build their confidence and competency.

Be focused: To be present and to show up intentionally, you must focus. This may the hardest of all. In a society that drains our focus and steals it from us, cutting off the chatter and noise in our heads and listening with our ears and hearts takes practice. And to make it even more challenging, we work with students who have processing and working memory difficulties that impede their ability to focus for more than a short period. Ensure that when you are trying to connect and teach a student, that you are doing so in a space that is quiet. Try getting out of the halls, moving out of the classroom or, in some cases, such as tutoring, move out of the kitchen and into a space that allows you to look a student in the eye, to listen without conflicting conversations swirling around you; a space where your response can be uninhibited. 

When you are finally focused, notice the difference in how you take in what the student is saying and doing. You can really be present, intentional and diagnostic. Without focus, nothing can fully take shape and, hence, the reality of what your student can take in is limited. How can you expect to confidently respond to them then? How can you confidently teach someone when you don’t really remember the next step in the new skill or why you taught what you did last time?

Focusing on “being” will focus you on your competence in a new approach. Competence will result in confidence. Being able to do these three things will help you understand who you are -- a foundational math instructor. Who you are, is who your students need. Try it out. You will see that confidence will come from being with students and  practicing new techniques that really work. They just want you. So, get present to focus intentionally and enjoy new OG Math learning together.

Marilyn Wardrop has been involved with teaching children with dyslexia and learning disabilities over 25 years. She has designed and taught OG Multisensory Math Training Courses and Workshops which combine a unique approach to help students be successful and independent while working on their math skills and curriculum.

OG Math Training courses and  workshops are designed to provide teachers, instructional support staff, Orton-Gillingham practitioners and parents with hands-on, interactive math training.


The Final Pieces to OG Math Strategies–How Math and Language are Strongly Connected

Talking About Math Language.

Here's what we've all been waiting for: the final four of our ten techniques for helping the struggling math students, O-G style. You can read about techniques 1 through 6 in our previous blog posts

7.  Help them to talk the talk, as they walk the walk. The difficulties that students have with the language of mathematics are the same as their difficulties in learning the English language: vocabulary terms, syntax, semantics and discourse features are difficult. (In fact, don't we all have to stop, sometimes, and think again about which number is the called the divisor and which one is the dividend?)  Drawings, cue cards and diagrams are useful in much the same way as pictures are sometimes used to reinforce letter sounds and key words in O-G. Directions should be given clearly; key vocabulary must be repeated often and reinforced continually. Let's say that again. Key vocabulary must be repeated often and reinforced continually.  In other words, key vocabulary must be repeated often and ... you get the idea.

8.  Knowing the language, not just the words.  There's a story about a tourist who was anxious to show off his newly found fluency in German, when he ordered coffee at a Berlin restaurant.  As the waiter brought his order, he said, confidently, “Danke Schoen” (Thank You) to which the waiter replied, “Bitte.” (You're welcome), and the tourist said, “No, it's not bitter at all.” Likewise, the instructor must directly teach the real world use of new vocabulary. Connect new words to known with information that is interesting and generates “rich connections” (Moore, National Geographic). The technical terms related to math concepts such as numerator, denominator, quotient, multiples and factors must be practiced repeatedly in a multisensory manner on word cards, tactile surfaces, and reference charts. It isn’t enough to know the words; students must have the concrete VAKT experience that makes the concepts lively and memorable.

9. Colour me confident. The use of a colour code or visual cueing is another effective way of focusing attention and sequencing steps in place value. For example, a separate colour may be designated for the ones, tens, and hundreds columns. It helps with recall of information and identifies starting and stopping points when punctuation is highlighted in colour within word problems. Another colour highlighter may be used for important key words thus providing cues to an appropriate response. Such strategies increase the student’s ability to be independent. (Thornton, Bley, 2005; Kramer, 1983)

10. When the going gets tough, the tough get all of the tools out of their toolbox ... or something like that. Moving from the simple to the complex is another key O-G teaching concept. There is more than one way to gradually add bits of new information when working through math equations. Teach alternate strategies to students through the use of manipulatives and the drawing step: drawing a picture, sketching a sequence, looking for a pattern, making predictions (Foss, 1999), and making a simpler or more authentic problem, trial and error, acting it out, recording results on a table or chart. These are strategies that enrich and empower students mathematically as they bridge over to traditional algorithms and generalizations." 

Math isn’t just a numbers game: writing, drawing, and talking about solving problems

As we discussed last time, teachers trying to help students who struggle with math need to use a variety of techniques. You can go back and review techniques 1, 2, and 3 in the last post. And, if you visualize a number line, you can see that number 3 is followed by numbers 4, 5 and 6. So technique number 4 is ... (drumroll)

Drawing and Talking About Math.

4.  Use drawings (TA-DA!) to translate and visualize math concepts. Drawings in math are known as the representational level. They are crucial in helping students make the connection between the materials (at the concrete level of understanding) and numbers or formulas (at the abstract level of understanding.) Students' drawings, verbal explanations, and journals legitimately testify to their understanding of Math concepts .  Those drawings are also quite often easier to retrieve from memory than pen and paper tasks.

5.    Let's Give Them Something To Talk About, as Bonnie Raitt famously sang.  Technique number 5 is a mouthful of jargon that has its own acronym : S.O.M. or Simultaneous Oral Math. It's an adaptation of  the Orton-Gillingham technique of Simultaneous Oral Spelling, or S.O.S. which is translated into a math format. It simply means that teachers need to encourage students to think aloud when solving problems, and have students give oral explanations of the thinking that leads to their solutions. With the O-G Math approach the teacher has the benefit of clearly understanding that the student will need time to process information before making a response.

6.    Let's take turns. As every O-G practitioner knows, demonstrated knowledge includes three things: comprehension of task demands, articulation of one’s own approach to the learning of similar tasks, and a grasp of the appropriate strategies for the task. The diagnostic/prescriptive aspect of O-G is easily employed with SOM when we hear the thinking process behind the student’s approach to solutions and see the results of their efforts on a day to day basis. By verbalizing step by step how a math problem is solved, students can self-correct their mistakes. And self-correction is where confidence and independence is built in O-G lessons.

When students write, draw or orally compose their own original word problems, these can be adapted and used for review. When teacher and student take turns writing and adding carefully measured complexity to math word problems, this activity can reinforce students’ reading and writing skills.

We'll finish out the top ten in our next post. Be sure to watch for it.

3 Ways to Succeed with Math Using the VAKT Approach

 Do you feel inadequate teaching math to struggling math students who just don’t get it? 

 Join the club.

At one time or another, almost every teacher has had to deal with those kinds of feelings. It's not at all unusual for teachers and tutors to feel unprepared for the task at hand.

    Unfortunately, mathematical instruction for remedial and special education students has primarily focused on helping an entire class with the acquisition of basic skills and traditional arithmetic (Chinn, Ashcroft 2007; Montague, Jitendra, 2006). But, clearly, we also need to adapt mathematics instruction to respond to individual student’s needs (Gersten, Jordon, Flojo, 2005).

         For example, one of the things you realize when dealing with dyslexia and math learning disabilities is that teaching and learning are multisensory. In 1979, Dr. Joyce Steeves wrote one of the earliest papers to suggest a multisensory approach to the teaching of mathematics. Dr. Steeves advocated the same teaching principles for teaching mathematics as Dr. Samuel Orton had suggested for language.

We know today that these multisensory strategies are effective for all students. What are they? The VAKT approach. VAKT stands for visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile. It's a fancy way of saying that you should help students see, hear, move and touch things as they try to understand a problem. This approach is especially helpful to students with “short attention spans” as they are not expected to merely sit still and learn the material. Instead, they manipulate tangible concrete objects that help them conceptualize abstract concepts. By using the O-G approach to support the teaching of both language acquisition AND Mathematics, we discover the best practices for the teaching of math in general.

In the next few posts, I’ll outline 10 techniques that I’ve found most effective for teaching students who struggle with math.

Today will focus on the first 3 Big VAKT Ideas:

         1. Touch it – Feel it – Move it Make math playful and concrete. It's long been a best practice in math education to teach concepts with concrete materials and examples. Wise teachers know that it's only when the vocabulary and the process are understood, that they can then move to a more abstract approach.

         2. Challenge and Creativity:   Instructors are at their best when they use their creativity to further their student’s understanding of math concepts, instead of merely relying on flash cards and worksheets. At the same time, students learn in an enjoyable way with all senses engaged while making connections between the concrete ideas they’ve experienced and the abstract concepts they need for quick recall.

         3. Have Success with a Solid Plan: Don't you love it when a plan comes together? You can use what we call a cumulative structure and sequence designed to flow through lessons automatically. Yes, those are a lot of big words, but concentrate on the "automatic" part. OG Math has a built in structure for strengthening thinking skills.

We'll take a closer look at developing automaticity and thinking skills in the next post.

Do you want to keep up with OG Math? You can sign up here to be kept up to date.

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OG Math Instructor Courses – Math that is fun and stress free!

OG Math Part One

November 14, 21, 28 & Dec. 5th , 2015

Time:  Saturdays - 9 am to 3:30 pm.

Location: Simon Fraser University, Surrey Campus

 There is still time to register and learn the 3 Key building blocks for  Math Success. Check out the information below and then register at:

When math instructors evaluate and say goodbye to the current school year, the best teachers and Orton-Gillingham  practitioners begin to think about what they can do to make math concepts come alive for students who struggle in math, and what will have “sticking power" in September and beyond.    

We're often asked what makes OG Math different from current classroom math instruction. Although a number of factors generally work together to contribute to educational success, there are three key elements for success in math.

They are direct instruction, employing multisensory techniques and step by step teaching techniques.  

The research evidence strongly favours direct instruction over discovery-based instruction for nurturing understanding, deeper learning and better problem solvers. To be successful, instructional procedures must cater to the limitations of a student’s working memory, which can hold only a limited amount of fresh information. This is particularly important for beginning learners or struggling learners who have difficulty focusing on new ideas when their working memory is overwhelmed. That will never happen in OG Math Classes.

Find course details and registration here:

Come and join us. We'd love to see you there. 

                                   Marilyn and Donna

Research Confirms Parents & Teachers’ Fears About Math Instruction

Strong math knowledge is necessary for success and early math skills are an early predictor for success later in math.

Parents and knowledgeable teachers know this, but the current Problem Solving - Discovery curriculum does not stress mastery for basic math skills such as math facts or pencil and paper practice of standard math procedures.

Teachers spend countless hours trying to reach students who find math a challenge. Parents face a battle during homework sessions because the math assignments have an unfamiliar look and feel from those of the past.

The most recent commentary  from the C.D. Howe Institute documents our school curriculum's inability to provide student's with strong foundational math skills that will meet international standards. In the commentary, author Anna Stokke examines domestic and international evidence in three areas of provincial programs that impact student success or lack of it in Canadian Schools. The report places the responsibility for the downward trend in math scores on the Discovery-based math instruction currently favoured in schools today.  It boldly states that it should be a policy priority to implement changes that will reverse the trend and improve math achievement for Canadian children.

The report can be found  at www.

Key Recommendations include:

1. Direct-instructional techniques work better than discovery-based techniques. Teachers should follow a 80/20 Rule and devote at least 80% of their instructional time to direct instructional techniques.

2. Remove ineffective instructional curricula and streamline focus to explicit concepts that have been shown to impact and predict later success in math.

3. Improve the math content knowledge in early and middle school teacher education so that teachers are both comfortable and knowledgeable in transmitting math knowledge to their students.

Marilyn Wardrop

OG Academic Math Instructor

Check out my book to find out about direct teaching with Orton-Gillingham (OG) Math

  and  OG Math Instructor Training at


Math: Changing I Won’t to – I – Will Power!

Math Can Be a Struggle.

Do you ever feel a little guilty about the pressure we put on children who struggle with math? That's a dangerous place to be. We worry about them shutting down and giving up on math. But all is not lost.

For some students just the sight of a page of math homework is enough to turn an ordinary evening of homework into a household battle. It can appear to be a lack of motivation, but is it?

Teachers know that many students do not have the underlying foundational or basic math skills to build a solid knowledge of grade level math requirements. There are many reasons for this lack of skill and some of them can be found in this introductory course  It’s free to watch the first lesson of the webinar course.

Once the intensity of the math curriculum begins to build in the school year, these students are left behind. Strengthening math skills is possible, and knowing how to do it could be the catalyst your child or students need to start making wiser decisions about their math learning and developing long-term academic math goals.

In the process of Orton-Gillingham (OG) Math instruction, students learn how to rewire their brain for a “Can Do” “I Will” Math Power. As parents and teachers sometimes the very things we think will motivate our students can actually push them away from self-control or self-confidence – so there’s a lot to learn here.

In the OG Math webinar Marilyn will also show where math breaks down for many students, and will walk you through a powerful Orton-Gillingham math  approach designed to strengthen math skills and each student’s  I – Will- power.

Change is possible. We’ll show you how to get started by breaking apart the ideas of why and how we learn math, so you can see the skill sets you need in order to do fill math gaps and build a strong foundation that will serve your child or students for years to come. Isn't that what we are all aiming for?

Click on the video below link to check out OG Math Courses.  

You should be thinking about positive brain change while learning Math

Good math skills change the brain..

It's more important than ever to make sure students have positive early Math experiences . Math often has a negative image for those who did not do well with math in school.

A common comment in the general public is, " I just didn't get math" or "I don't do math!" And yet we want our children and students to learn math and build a base of math knowledge that will carry them through life.

Not to turn into "Pollyanna," but positive Math experience can  impact your brain.

Focusing on positive math experiences is a reflex for some, but it’s a skill that all of us have to work hard to adopt. Because not only can it be just plain enjoyable to be competent and confident in math but every time we relive good experiences, it can actually rewire the brain.

New findings keep showing us that everything we do affects our brain. But that is in both positive and negative ways. So wherever we focus our attention, we’re making lasting change, for better or worse.

The more we show children and teachers that changing the brain to love and embrace Math can be both simple and enjoyable, the better equipped they’ll be to transform their school experience and lives.

To find out more about how our view of math can change through positive experience (and what to do for someone who thinks good math skills just seem out of their reach), take a look at the OG Math Part One Video Overview and the OG Math Introductory Course go to

The OG Way to Math Success

The OG Academic Math is an approach to successfully teach students who struggle with math.

The OG Math approach provides a focus on foundational math skills while using visual and interactive demonstrations so that students understand “WHY” as well as “HOW” for each math concept and topic. Lessons focus on developing essential math skills and fluency while combining continual, ongoing assessment. This is known as diagnostic prescriptive instruction. At a time when schools and teachers across the country are looking for ways to help students improve their performance in math,OG Academic Math can bridge the learning gap for students. With a focus on in-depth understanding and problem solving, the OG Math curriculum has propelled our students from disappointment to success and confidence in their math education. Math Success is at hand with OG Academic Math. Available at
Working Memory and ADHD

 Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD is a complex condition that is often complicated by poor Working Memory.

In the math classroom, students with good working memory are able to stay on the task at hand because their working memory tells them to stay focused. It helps them to ignore distractions and manage their behaviour as they complete each question or assignment.

Students with ADHD may be ready to explore and take on a new math concept, but it often appears as if they are working against themselves. Their motor cortex is overactive, so they need to keep moving.  They may attempt to keep focused by tapping the desk, doodling on paper or talking out in class if they don’t understand a concept.

It isn't difficult to understand how these disruptions interfere with their working memory. It cannot do double duty and manage behaviour as it tries to learn a new math concept, so the student may tire and slip into daydreaming in the middle of a lesson. The result of this confusion is that the math student with ADHD has a working memory that cannot clearly learn or recall math facts and concepts let alone apply them in math homework.

In short, the students’ lack of focus due to ADHD results in gaps in their learning that inhibits them from being successful.

Rethinking the way we instruct these students and gearing instruction to foster permanent learning will assist these students in overcoming their difficulties.

A Guide to SUCCESS with Math

The Interactive Approach to Understanding and Teaching Math  Based on the Orton-Gillingham Approach for Literacy Instruction  Price $47.50

Adding It Up!

Sometimes it's not as simple as it sounds.

Taking Working Memory on an Arithmetic Field Trip

In the last post we were exploring the important, positive tasks that working memory allows each of us to do on a daily basis. We will explore these positive aspects of working memory in following articles as well as how working memory is disadvantaged in life  and in math particularly. So to set the stage, let’s start by solving this math problem:

27+ 8 = ?

Now many of you have solved it in your mind already, but for a young student it may be challenging because it involves several steps that rely on working memory. If you can remember ever having difficulty with horizontal math problems, the steps listed below will show you it is much more complex than you think. Let’s take a look at each step in the addition process. Step 1.  Take the 7 and the 8 and use you mind to calculate the first part of the answer. Step 2. Put the answer 15 in your working memory and hold it there. Step 3. Remember the 5 and use your working memory to regroup or carry the 1 (from 15) and prepare to add it to the 2 (from 27). Step 4. Update your working memory with 2. Combine 2 with 1 (from 15) to get the answer 3. Step 5. Recall the 5 held in working memory. Step 6. Organize the numbers with the 5 in the ones place of value and 3 in the tens place of value for the answer 35. This problem is tricky because it is presented horizontally rather then vertically. Children frequently solve it by writing down 125 because their working memory is not up to the task of keeping track of where they are in the problem. They are left to puzzle about what to do with the 1 that is carried over. Working memory is directly related to a student’s ability to solve arithmetic problems. Working memory is a key factor in keeping numerical knowledge in the correct order to solve problems such as these.

(adapted from Working Memory by Tracey and Ross Alloway)

Next - positive aspects and disadvantages impacting working memory.    Resources: [easyazon_image add_to_cart="default" align="left" asin="1412930960" cloaking="default" height="160" localization="default" locale="CA" nofollow="default" new_window="default" src="" tag="ogmath-20" width="113"] [easyazon_image add_to_cart="default" align="left" asin="0826434169" cloaking="default" height="160" localization="default" locale="CA" nofollow="default" new_window="default" src="" tag="ogmath-20" width="104"] [easyazon_image add_to_cart="default" align="left" asin="0470973730" cloaking="default" height="160" localization="default" locale="CA" nofollow="default" new_window="default" src="" tag="ogmath-20" width="106"][easyazon_image add_to_cart="default" align="left" asin="1441165851" cloaking="default" height="160" localization="default" locale="CA" nofollow="default" new_window="default" src="" tag="ogmath-20" width="107"]          
Math Success: Not Just IQ – Some kids have the Working Memory Advantage
Many bright students have a difficulty with math that puzzles their parents and teachers. These students are bright enough and appear to understand the math concepts as they are practiced in class. But for some reason this information is not recognized the next time the concept is presented. The problem could be a difficulty with working memory. We’ll be exploring the many facets of working memory in further posts, but first let’s look at what working memory is and what its role is in our lives. Working memory gives you the advantage of managing information in your day to day life from birth to old age. Simply put Working Memory is our ability to work with information. More precisely it is the conscious processing of information while simultaneously keeping us on task and blocking out distracting information For example, a student in math class needs his working memory to hold on to new instructional information and apply it while screening out distractions such as other students moving in and out of the room, people chatting, the intercom buzzing or managing the  fear that he isn't going to get it and  keep up in class. In summary Working Memory enables us to do the following important tasks: Prioritize information Focus on important stuff Think on your feet Take smarter risks Learn more easily in school Make judgement calls Adapt to new situations Stay motivated to achieve long term goals Stay positive in the midst of dire situations Helps you to do the right thing in social interactions Sift through options while considering others Makes you a better team player The list is a great reminder of how much we take our working memory for granted when it is working well for us. We’ll explore these positive aspects of working memory in following articles as well as how working memory is disadvantaged in life, and of course in math. Suggested Reading: [easyazon_image add_to_cart="default" align="left" asin="1412936136" cloaking="default" height="160" localization="default" locale="CA" nofollow="default" new_window="default" src="" tag="ogmath-20" width="112"][easyazon_image add_to_cart="default" align="left" asin="B009KZXGV6" cloaking="default" height="160" localization="default" locale="CA" nofollow="default" new_window="default" src="" tag="ogmath-20" width="112"]  
Orton Gillingham Math Success – Math Help for Every Learning Style

OG Academic Math  is known as a therapeutic approach because lessons are adapted to the best learning style and strength  of each student. The approach carries through to each lesson, each day. Students find they are enjoying math because math concepts become crystal clear to them within a short period of time. Parents find that students benefit most if they begin math help early on before students become discouraged. Math success provides a reprieve from stress that shows in even more positive results in other subjects. Math is a sequential subject. Students who struggle with math often question themselves as to why they cannot understand a subject that many others find easy. When Math becomes successful and comfortable for them, they know other subjects will follow.  Confidence is built on math competence and it transfers to other subjects such as Science, Social Studies and English because the logical patterns in them become clearer with practice. 

Math Help That Really Makes a Difference

Some places that offer math help do so by helping with homework.

The difficulty with this approach is that it often does not address the underlying problem that many parent’s face. 

The fact is that their child has shaky if not altogether missing basic math skills. Therefore the math help only serves to get the homework done, but leaves the student even more frustrated.

Orton-Gillingham Math immediately begins to systematically fill in gaps in basic math skills so that concepts are truly understood.  Intensive hands-on learning is successful and engaging.

It begins with the quick OG Math diagnostic assessment which is done in a way that is kind and even fun.  The results of the math assessment are used to create individual lessons that are structured for a positive outcome each and every time the student sits down with an OG Math practitioner. 


OG Math = The Key is Engagement and Interaction
When you look at the learning experience, the higher the degree of interaction or activity, the higher the degree of retention. Earl Robertson, Quota Corporate Training.

The key is engagement and interaction with every math lesson.

OG Multisensory Math bridges the gap between frustration and boredom and excitement and success. In modern education, teachers recognize that not all students learn in the same manner. A topic that comes up repeatedly in the educational field is “differentiation.” This is no longer a world where teachers establish the learning style and the students must get on board. It is the opposite. We cannot simply use the practice and drill method until students produce the correct answers; they certainly  cannot retrieve the correct answers if they did not learn how to in the first place (Siegel, 2013). OG Math instructors must identify the different learning styles of their students and implement them to appeal to each learning style in the lessons they present. A classroom teacher and remedial teacher can put his or her heart and soul into their math lessons, but there is only so much time to reach each student in a large class with a jam packed curriculum.  OG Math lessons provide the time, engagement and interaction that struggling students need to achieve a good understanding of math concepts. OG Math is available at the Prospect Centre 604-536-7704 or visit 

Math textbook contains errors, SFU lecturer says

Significant errors in public school math textbooks may be negatively affecting students’ abilities to understand the subject, says a senior lecturer in mathematics at Simon Fraser University. Malgorzata Dubiel spent the last year studying the textbooks and determined “errors in terminology, definitions and presentation of mathematical concepts” may be contributing to students’ difficulties in understanding concepts. She found many such errors in Math Makes Sense, the most popular kindergarten-to-Grade 9 math textbook series in B.C

“I don’t want to say that they are truly bad, because they are based on sound methodology and so on, but they were written just by teachers and no mathematician was ever consulted either in reviewing them or writing,” Dubiel said. “There are some issues which can make learning more difficult for students and for teachers. There are things that are, mathematically, totally incorrect.”

As an example, Dubiel cited a Grade 7 math textbook that defined the term “average” as “the number that represents all numbers in a set,” which may or may not be equal to a mean.

“In statistics, those words are used interchangeably, and average means exactly the same as the mean, but we’re telling students that it isn’t,” she said.

Elsewhere, the textbook asks whether it is possible to draw a circle with a circumference of exactly 33 cm.

“Common sense tells you can take a string with the length of 33 cm, make a circle of it, and this is your circle,” she said. Or, one can use a mathematical formula to calculate the radius and draw the circle from that, rounding decimals.

The textbook, however, states this is impossible: “[Pi] never terminates or repeats. So, the circumference will never be a whole number.”

She has contacted both the publisher of the textbooks and the Ministry of Education to little effect to date.

In response to a detailed report on Dubiel’s findings, the ministry told Dubiel in a letter the public school system is in the early stages of transformation and her findings would be shared with ministry staff working with document references.

The MSL Approach to Mathematics Instruction

The Multisensory Structured Language Approach to Mathematics InstructionThe application of the Multisensory Structured Language or MSL approach to mathematics instruction is based on the Orton-Gillingham approach for teaching language skills. Auditory, visual, and kinesthetic patterns reinforce each other for optimal learning, and provide flexibility for accommodating individual learning differences.This educational methodology embodies teaching strategies which are beneficial to all learners. The emphasis on step-by-step development of skill has proven essential to both early success and lasting results.For some students, mathematics is a road traveled in small steps. A successful multisensory approach leads the student through small increments of understanding toward unifying themes in mathematics. Student’s strengths and needs must be recognized and addressed with built-in "checks for error," as well as a built-in system for building confidence and competence.C.R.A. is an intervention for mathematics instruction that research suggests can enhance the mathematics performance of students who are learning math for the first time, those with math learning difficulties and students with dyslexia or learning disabilities. It is a three-part instructional strategy, with each part building on the previous instruction to promote student learning and retention and to address conceptual knowledge.The CRA instructional sequence consists of three stages: concrete, representation, and abstract: 

 Concrete. In the concrete stage, the instructor begins teaching by modeling each mathematical concept with concrete materials. Students know the concrete level as the building step.  Representational. In this stage, the instructor transforms the concrete model into a representational (semi-concrete) level, which involves drawing pictures. Students know the representational level as the drawing step.  Abstract. At this stage, the instructor models the mathematics concept at a symbolic level, using numbers and mathematical symbols to indicate addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. In summary: The Concrete is the “doing” stage using concrete objects to model problems The Representational is the  “seeing” stage using representations of the objects to model problems The Abstract is the  “symbolic” stage using abstract symbols to model problems CRA supports understanding underlying mathematical concepts before learning “rules,” that is, moving from a concrete model of blocks for multiplication to an abstract representation such as 4 x 3 = 12.Research-based studies show that students who use concrete materials develop more precise and more comprehensive mental representations, often show more motivation and on-task behavior, understand mathematical ideas, and better apply these ideas to life situations.Once the student is confident with the CRA approach it can be integrated with other Orton - Gillingham techniques and curriculum subject areas.This handbook is a guide for enhancing instruction for students who struggle with math concepts. It is a compilation of research and ideas gathered from many experts in the field, but by no means a comprehensive guide. It is my sincere hope that the ideas presented here will assist instructors and students in their quest for a successful journey through the wonderful themes and concepts that math has to offer.Marilyn Wardrop


Welcome to the math website!

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