All children should have the experience of using concrete objects for counting in everyday environments. These experiences are the foundations for math skills, or “numeracy.” This means that they should have exposure to numbers, just as they need to have exposure to the alphabet, in whatever format is most accessible to them, including print and braille, as well as the spoken or signed numerals.
Tips for Teaching:
1. Provide frequent opportunities to count everything!
How many socks, how many spoons, how many chairs? How many steps to the bedroom? How many people in the car? Exposure to numbers throughout the day will help to build a strong foundation.
2. Offer daily exposure to numbers in the context of the routine.
Look at the dates on the calendar, numbers on addresses and street signs, telephone numbers, prices. Many of these numerals may be difficult or impossible for the child to see, but it is still important to call their attention to the fact that numbers are around us all of the time!
3. Help children to develop an understanding of basic mathematical concepts.
Same/different, big/little, more/less are all essential to the development of number sense. There are limitless opportunities to practice these throughout the day! Is this shirt the same as that shirt? Is your shoe bigger than my shoe? Do you have more crackers on your plate than I do on my plate?
4. Provide the opportunity for children to explore and sort materials to learn about these concepts.
Students who are blind or visually impaired will need to have repeated opportunities to touch, feel, and compare real objects. By examining their various properties, children will learn how objects are the same and different, which is taller, heavier, wider, etc.
5. Create opportunities for children to develop the concept of one-to-one correspondence.
One-to-one correspondence refers to the idea that each number stands for one object. Children usually learn to count rotely (say from 1-5 or 1-10) before they understand that one number refers to each item. Give them practice matching one item to another in order to reinforce this concept, such as one foot for one shoe, one child for one chair, one spoon for one bowl, one napkin for one placemat, one CD for one CD case, etc.
6. Provide consistent hands-on exposure to concrete items or manipulatives to sort, to compare (more/less, bigger/smaller), and to count.
These manipulatives may also be useful as students begin simple operations (addition and subtraction), and should continue to be made available.
Learn more about the use of manipulatives in this power point presentation by Susan Osterhaus of Texas School for the Blind: The Use of Manipulatives as an Instructional Strategy to Help Students Who are Blind or Visually Impaired Understand and Learn Math Concepts (Early Childhood through Secondary) Manipulatives are defined as follows: "A mathematical manipulative is an object which is designed so that a student can learn some mathematical concept by manipulating it."