# Assistive Technologies Final Project

For the Introduction to Assistive Technologies final project, I continued my research on using movement to teach mathematics.  The result is a research paper/summary and a sample lesson.  The lesson hasn’t actually been taught to kids, and I’m not a teacher, but I did my best to model it on seemingly successful lessons and to think thoroughly about what kinds of accommodations would be necessary for this group of kids. Teaching Patterns with Movement Lesson

Project Background:

Because it is both abstract and concrete, math can be difficult to teach and frustrating to learn.  On our trip to a district 75 school in the Bronx we saw a class of students struggling to pay attention to a lesson where one student worked at the board and the rest followed along at their desks.  These same kids were thoroughly engaged in gym class, moving around to music and doing simple exercises.  Seeing this contrast made me wonder if bringing movement to the math lesson might make it more interesting to the students and help them learn, too.

In class we had seen a video of a class dancing and singing along with a program called Handwriting without Tears.  Those kids seemed like they were into the lesson, but was it really helping them to learn to write?  If so, how?

There were a few key things I wanted to research and understand better: how to adapt or create lessons for children with learning and physical disabilities, what their needs are and what adaptive techniques work well; what research has been done on incorporating physical movement into formal education; examples of movement being used specifically to teach mathematical concepts.  I primarily used the ERIC database and resources found through the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics as well as some Internet searching.

Movement & Learning:

Moving around helps kids to learn and enhances procedural memory.[1]  An article in Teaching Children Mathematics summarizing the recent research of an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School relays that “exercise creates in the brain more attention for longer periods of time.”[2]  Based on this research and the success of some commercially available products, this article recommends that all teachers incorporate simple physical activities into math lessons, such as walking around the room to solve problems taped to the walls.

Movement also engages kids in the material and can contribute to a general love of learning.  One case study of an inclusive classroom that used dance and creative movement throughout the curriculum, but particularly in language arts, summarized that “researchers reported that students demonstrated increased understanding improved behavior in the classroom, and better attitudes toward school.”[3]  Another study of 202 children in grades 2-5 found that dance significantly improved the students’ attitudes toward math.[4]

Teaching Math Using Movement:

Kinesthetic learning techniques have demonstrated success in math lessons. One group of first graders used their bodies to explore arithmetic and geometry—they were encouraged to make shapes and move creatively when discussing concepts of height, length, and depth and when beginning work with the properties of shapes.[5]  Their instructor found that creative movement made abstract concepts very real to the students.  Even very young children, babies and toddlers, can be encouraged to develop geometric and spatial understanding through movement if aided by aware caregivers and teachers.[6]

One excellent example of using movement to teach math comes from an article called Choreographing Patterns and Functions.  The authors worked with the teacher in a combined grade 1-2 classroom in a Toronto public school to implement a month-long unit on patterning which included 11 lessons.  The students are described as “an exceptionally diverse group of learners with a wide range of abilities.”[7] The objective of the lessons was to support the discovery of rules for patterns in algebraic functions, which can be challenging for students.[8]

The instructors did not jump right into using dance, but instead worked up to it with a series of lessons that used manipulatives, visual representations of patterns, and a contraption called a “function machine.”  After achieving a solid understanding of patterning, they began to learn an algebraic dance.  The teacher first demonstrates the dance, which uses one movement to represent the value of the variable (multiplied by a coefficient) and a second movement to represent the constant in a two-step equation.  The students pick up on the patterns almost immediately and then go on to create their own dances.  The authors explain that all of the students, even those who struggled with the previous lessons on two-step functions, were able to “create and recognize elements of two-step dance patterns and accurately perform their arithmetic calculations.”[9]  They conclude that bodies can help kids understand algebra in a way akin to how young children use fingers to help them learn arithmetic.  They also urge differentiated lesson types to provide many points of access for students who have varied learning styles.

Another example of teachers using movement in math lessons comes from a blog called Sweeny Math, written by a teacher at a private high school for students with learning disabilities.  The author describes a song and dance he created to help his kids solve equations.  He describes the lesson as the most fun his students have all year and that it helps his students, particularly those who are overwhelmed, to break the process of solving equations down into steps.[10]

Lesson plans and commercially available products also provide support for the use of motion and dance in math lessons, although they do not offer the reflection or evaluation of a research summary or blog entry.  One particularly thorough lesson, available from STEM for Teachers (a resource partnership through the Virginia Department of Education), guides students through patterning explorations using dance.[11]  I found these particular lessons, which use modeling, small group work, and repetition to teach children to recognize and create patterns, very helpful.  My own lesson draws from the techniques exemplified here.

Other lessons came from an organization called Math Dance, which brings together math and dance in performances and workshops for children.[12]  The organization, founded by a mathematics teacher, a choreographer, and an educational game designer, offers some sample lessons on patterns, counting, and geometry on its website as well as others available in a book.  Some teachers are even using math to teach dance, instead of the other way around, which adds to the idea that math and dance are related and have something to contribute to each other.[13]

Strategies for Teaching Math to Children with Learning Disabilities:

A 2002 article, Strategies for Helping Students Who Have Learning Disabilities in Mathematics, provides a succinct summary of types of learning disabilities and offers a number of adaptive strategies.[14]  While the article does not mention the use of kinesthetic learning, many of the suggested strategies are present in the lesson plans and articles that describe teaching math using movement, including: reviewing prerequisite skills and concepts, modeling, using step-by-step procedures, providing guided as well as independent practice, using visual aids, using cooperative learning groups.[15]  One in-depth case study highlights the use of individualized attention; understanding the child’s own best problem solving strategies then working closely with them to apply those skills and achieve success in math, particularly with word problems.[16]

Many of the tactics for adaptation seem to draw on the multiple intelligence theory, which suggests that there are a number of ways to be smart and that individuals possess different intelligences to varying degrees.  Students who, for example, have difficulty expressing or understanding using typical linguistic means might find physical expression more natural and intuitive.

Creative movement can reach students who “do not learn through more typical instructional formats.”[17]  And also turn a typically negative behavior (moving around, fidgeting) into a positive behavior.[18]

Conclusion:

Incorporating movement into lessons increases differentiation in instruction, which creates greater learning opportunity, and kinesthetic learning encourages learning in the moment and also strengthens retention.  Further, movement creates a point of entry to the material that is not offered in typical instruction.  The process of teaching movement lends itself to the incorporation of many strategies for teaching students with learning disabilities, including: modeling, step-by-step instruction, cooperative learning, and combined guided and independent practice.  These adaptive strategies can benefit many types of learners and are especially helpful when teaching students with learning disabilities.

Footnotes/Resources:

[1] Skoning, Stacey.  Dancing the Curriculum. Kappa Delta Pi Record; Summer 2010; 46, 4; pg. 170.  Accessed March 2013 through ERIC database at: http://search.proquest.com/eric/docview/366307010/fulltextPDF/13CC0812C421E7609EE/3?accountid=12768

[2] Elkin, Andrea Christie. Students Hop, Skip, and Jump Their Way to Understanding. Teaching Children Mathematics, Vol. 18, No. 9 (May 2012), pp. 524-525. Accessed March 2013 at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5951/teacchilmath.18.9.0524 .

[3] Skoning, Stacey.  Dancing the Curriculum.

[4] Werner, Linette.  Arts for Academic Achievement. Changing Student Attitudes Toward Math: Using Dance to Teach Math.  Paper prepared for the Minneapolis Public Schools.  October 2001.  Accessed February 2013 through ERIC database: http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED482650.pdf

[5] Complo, Sister Jannita Marie. Teaching geometry through creative movement. The Arithmetic Teacher, Vol. 14, No. 7 (November 1967), pp. 576-578. Accessed February 2013 at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41185664

[6] Andrews, Angela Giglio. Developing Spatial Sense—a Moving Experience! Teaching Children Mathematics, Vol. 2, No. 5 (January 1996), pp. 290-293.  Accessed February 2013 at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41196504 .

[7] Zachary Hawes, Joan Moss, Heather Finch and Jacques Katz. Choreographing Patterns and Functions. Teaching Children Mathematics, Vol. 19, No. 5 (December 2012/January 2013), pp. 302-309.  Accessed February 2013 at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5951/teacchilmath.19.5.0302

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] The Dance Steps to Solving the Equation-The Lesson, Sweeny Math (blog), October 3, 2009.  Accessed March 2013 at: http://sweeneymath.blogspot.com/search/label/dancing

[11] Carrie Lewis & Kelly Steele. Dance by Numbers lesson plan for STEM for Teachers.

[12] www.mathdance.org

[13] Gilbert, Debbie.  Arts Impact Institute Lesson Plan. Accessed March 2013 at:  http://www.arts-impact.org/lessonplans/uploads/Patterns%20in%20Dance%20and%20Math.pdf

[14] Steele., Marcee M. Strategies For Helping Students Who Have Learning Disabilities In Mathematics. Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, Vol. 8, No. 3 (November 2002), pp. 140-143.  Accessed February 2013 at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41181263 .

[15] Ibid.

[16] Behrend, Jean L.  Learning-Disabled Students Make Sense of Mathematics. Teaching Children Mathematics, Vol. 9, No. 5 (January 2003), pp. 269-273. Accessed March 2013 at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41198150

[17] Skoning, Stacey.  Dancing the Curriculum.

[18] Ibid.

# Initial ideas and research for Assistive Technologies Final Project

For the week 5 class, we had to begin thinking about and researching for our final project.  As I was thinking about what to work on for the next few weeks, I kept coming back to an experience we had when we visited the district 75 school our second week.  We saw a class of kids struggling through a math lesson — they weren’t very interested in math and didn’t seem to be getting much from the lesson.  It was a traditional setup with one student working at the board and the rest of the class following along at their desks, but no one was very into it.

We saw those same kids completely engaged in their gym class.  This made me wonder if there might be a way to bring that excitement and engagement of gym into a math lesson — to teach math with the aid of movement and motion.

I started to do research using the NYU library resources, materials from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics website (www.nctm.org), and general online searches.

Here is the presentation that outlines my initial ideas and research: Idea Presentation for Assistive Technology Final Project

# Thinking Through a Problem – Week 4 Assignment

In the past couple weeks, we’ve heard from a couple occupational therapists who encounter problems in their everyday work and are constantly coming up with innovative solutions.  Our assignment was a design challenge — to think through a problem presented to us and propose a solution.  The options were:

1) Thinking through a solution to the medication dilemma exemplified in this video: http://lynnvalley.net/aids-for-daily-living/self-care-part-3/

2) Thinking through a design that allows an OT working in a public school to use a tray to encourage students to feed themselves and measure their progress

3) Accessing the iPad with limited or uncontrollable mobility.

I chose to address the problem of Lynn’s medicine.  There were a few things to think about:

• the need for a large, clear space to keep the medicine bottles
• pills falling behind the dresser
• measuring out the correct dosage
• keeping track of which pills have been taken
• handling/gripping the pill
• managing the water

I thought that a reasonable solution might be for the pills to go into a compartment shaped like an upside-down funnel.  There would be an internal mechanism that dispenses one pill when the user pushes down on a lever.  I thought the lever should be designed to be pushed with the forearm instead of with the hand, since Lynn can’t use her hands in that way.

The inspiration for the mechanism came from a few existing designs:

• bulk food dispensers — pull down on a lever to remove a block and dispense coffee beans, granola, etc.  How can this motion be made more subtle, to only allow one pill to be dispensed at a time instead of a stream of pills?
• paper towel dispensers — use forearm, instead of hand, to push a lever about an inch and a half wide and eight inches long down, which turns a set of rollers and dispenses paper towels.  How to shrink this mechanism so the lever is only a few inches long?  How can this motion translation (push lever down = roller turns) be modified to turn a flat disk or lift an obstruction?
• pet/animal treat dispensers — a rat or a monkey hits a lever to receive a treat.  This seems like a promising mechanism to dispense one pill at a time, but how to incorporate a larger, forearm controlled lever?  (When I looked into this mechanism I found that many of these dispensers are actually triggered by motion using sensors.  That is a really interesting idea for this conceptual pill dispenser — the user would just put her hand under the chute and a pill would be released!  No levers or anything necessary!)

So I drew up some sketches.  I became really obsessed with trying to understand how only one pill would be released at a time.  One potential issue with all of these ideas is that the user has to use one arm to push down the lever while holding the other hand under the chute to catch the falling pill.

Idea 1: The compartment narrows and pills are dropped (by gravity) into a bunch of little holes the size of the pills (that right there is an issue: would each container have to be customized to the pill type?).  When the lever is pushed down, this disk with a bunch of pills in it rotates and one hole aligns with the open chute, the pill in that hole then drops down the chute.  (basically, this is a gun)

Idea 2: The pills are in a compartment and when the lever is pushed (down or maybe in?) an arm pushes one pill into a chute, kind of like a very mini snow plow.

Idea 3: Similar to idea 1, but instead of having many holes there is one hole in a disk which holds a pill and when the lever is pushed the disk just shifts slightly (instead of having to rotate the entire way around) and the pill is dropped into a hole and goes down the chute.

Here is a sketch of the structure, with a black box for the actual dispensing mechanism:

While not an entirely complete solution–none of these ideas address the issue of keeping track of which pills have been taken, for example–I think that these ideas are a good start.  I’ve tried to consider the abilities that Lynn does have, the use of her arms, and bring that into this design.  Although these ideas still require someone to open the pill bottles and put them into the different chambers.

——

In class, many students presented similar ideas and one thing that Marianne kept mentioning was the potential danger of taking pills out of their labeled containers.  What if they get mixed up?  Or the user can’t remember the specific directions or warnings associated with a particular medication?  This got me thinking about a design that would incorporate the pill bottle.  Something like the contraptions that feed your cats while you’re away.

The user connects the pill bottle to a base that has the pill dispenser mechanism and a chute, the mechanism is triggered by a lever movement, similar to my initial ideas.  Essentially, the pill bottle itself is the compartment of earlier versions.

Again, this idea isn’t fully formed but does try to solve the problem of removing pills from their labeled containers.

—-

This exercise proved good practice for problem solving because every decision had to be evaluated with respect to a real problem.  It’s quite difficult to solve every part of a problem and sometimes it feels like your ideas might fix one thing but then create a totally new problem.

# Activity Analysis – Week 1 Assignment

Week One Activity Analysis: Brushing Teeth!

Open the door to the bathroom by turning the knob. Step up one inch into the bathroom. Turn to your right. Open the center section of the medicine cabinet by pulling on the lower right corner of the mirror and swinging the section open. Reach into the medicine cabinet and take the toothbrush from the holder by grasping the brush and lifting it up three inches. Turn on the water by twisting the tap counterclockwise. Run the toothbrush under the water. Turn off the water by twisting the tap clockwise. Reach into the medicine cabinet and remove the toothpaste from holder by grasping the tube and lifting up three inches. Careful, the toothpaste is a little too big so you might have to brace the holder with your other hand (which is also holding the toothbrush) so that the entire thing doesn’t tumble from the medicine cabinet.

Holding the tube in your right hand, uncap the toothpaste with your left hand by twisting the cap counterclockwise. Align the opening on the toothpaste with the bristles on the toothbrush. Squeeze the toothpaste from the tube by pressing on the bottom, put a small amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush by regulating the pressure on the tube. Put the cap back on the toothpaste by turning the cap in the opposite direction as before and put the toothpaste back in the medicine cabinet.

Switch the toothbrush to your right hand. Lift the brush to your mouth. Open your mouth. Move the brush around in your mouth with the bristles facing your teeth and gums. Move the brush side to side and up and down, away from the gums, repeat for thirty seconds making sure to cover all teeth and areas of the mouth. Spit into the sink.

Turn on the water by twisting the tap counterclockwise. Move the toothbrush under the water to rinse it off completely. Turn off the water by twisting the tap in the opposite direction. Put the toothbrush back into the medicine cabinet by opening the cabinet (although it should already be open because I didn’t say to close it) and placing the toothbrush into the holder. Now close the medicine cabinet by pulling and then pushing on the corner of the cabinet door, which is hinged.

Turn on the water by twisting the tap counterclockwise. Cup your hands beneath the water and fill them with water. Lift your hands to your mouth and sip the water into your mouth. Hold the water there and swish it around to clear your mouth of toothpaste and saliva. Spit into the sink. Repeat this rinsing process a couple times. Turn off the water by twisting the tap in the opposite direction.

Reach for the towel that is hanging to your left. Lift the towel from the hook and bring it to your mouth. Wipe your mouth free of any remaining water. Your teeth are now brushed.

# Review of Accessibility Features on Phone and Laptop – Week 1 Assignment

I spent some time using the accessibility features on my Mac laptop and Samsung Android phone. I’d never explored these features prior to this assignment.