What is Mathematical Literacy?
Mathematical Literacy includes numeracy (the ability to recognize numerals), a basic number sense, and a grasp of simple mathematical concepts. Students who are blind or visually impaired often do not have the same exposure to numbers or mathematical concepts as their sighted peers and, as a result, they may be behind their age-level peers in school.
An understanding of math begins with the development of basic concepts, such as the attributes of size (big/little) and weight (heavy/light); same/different, comparison (bigger/smaller), more/less. Color and shape recognition (3D and 2D) are other early concepts that are critical to the development of mathematical skills. Recognizing and imitating patterns is another important early concept, whether the patterns be tactile, visual or both (e.g. rough, rough, smooth or circle, square, triangle, circle, square, triangle).
Counting and Number Sense
Counting begins with rote counting, which can later be expanded to counting by 2s, 5s, 10s, 100s. An understanding of one-to-one correspondence is necessary to the ability to count items. Counting is a skill which requires the ability to count rotely, as well as the ability to make smaller sets from larger sets (e.g. Given 5 spoons, the child is asked to give 3. Initially children will give all 5, and it's only when they have a clear grasp of number sense that they can make smaller sets out of a larger array.
Functional Math Skills
Functional Math Skills include a grasp of concepts that are used in daily life, such as money, measurement, budgeting, and estimation. Teaching these skills in the context of cooking, shopping, and developing independent living skills can reinforce these skills.
Nemeth Code for Braille Readers
Just as sighted students must see numerals and basic mathematical symbols (+, -, =, > <) before they begin to use them, so too must students who are braille readers have exposure to Nemeth Code, which is the braille code used to transcribe mathematics, science, and other technical information. For more information about Nemeth Code, see the following:
- Nemeth in a Box
- Nemeth Curriculum Materials Page, Pearson
- Nemeth Tutorial, APH
- Project INSPIRE: Increasing the STEM Potential of Individuals Who Read Braille
- Teaching Nemeth Code, Project Math Access
- Teaching Nemeth Code, Susan Osterhaus, TSBVI
- Math Education and Nemeth Code: Nemeth & Adventitiously Blind High School Students Texas School for the Blind, See/Hear (Fall 1997). This article from the See/Hear Newsletter presents questions, answers, and differing opinions about the use of Nemeth Code in math education.