Addressing Accessibility in Mathematics
three middle-school aged children
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Common Core & Struggling Learners

Math Accessibility

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Why Use a Protocol?

Following a protocol is important to using meeting time productively.  Many programs have found the process of looking at student work in study groups to be a powerful means of professional development. We designed a Looking at Student Work (LASW) protocol to address our focus on math accessibility.  AAM study groups used this LASW protocol in the first year of the program, and an Accessibility Planning protocol in the second year.

Facilitators and group members felt that using a protocol was extremely helpful in keeping the focus on students’ math learning and accessibility, and keeping the meetings productive. The protocols also helped to ensure that everyone had a chance to participate and that teachers ended meetings with clear action plans.

I think they [study group members] like the organization… the protocols.  They like the fact that it’s effective, that they get work done, that it’s set to a time limit and they’re not just spinning their wheels and I think they see their colleagues sometimes stuck in that position, without having a facilitator, without having some specific protocol.  We talked about using [these protocols] with language arts and sciences. (Study Group Facilitator)

How the LASW Protocol Works

Meetings typically last only 45-60 minutes, so each meeting focuses in depth on the work of just three students. Each meeting has a presenting teacher, and study group members take turns in this role.

The presenting teacher brings in work from three focal students—students chosen to represent the range of learners in their class. For example, a teacher might bring in work from a struggling student, a typical student, and a student on an IEP.

The group members proceed to follow the LASW protocol, which involves examining the work samples and planning strategies. Click to see (in PDF format) the protocol, and the LASW Record that teachers write on as they work.

Getting Started with Protocols

Using a protocol can feel awkward and artificial at first. We recommend that all groups try the protocols for several sessions.  In the beginning teachers sometimes feel unsure or confused (“Are we doing this right? What are we supposed to do next?”), but as the protocol grows familiar their comfort increases and they take ownership of the process. Over time, the benefits of following a protocol become evident.

Observed Benefits of the Protocols

In observing the AAM study groups over two years, we saw many benefits accrue from using the LASW and Accessibility Planning protocols.  Following the protocols:

These many advantages helped to build a positive experience for teachers both within the groups and in their classrooms. In the words of one study group member, “The most important benefit was to realize that SPED students can learn more sophisticated concepts and experience success.