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Slide 1 - Abacus Instruction by Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments Sunggye Hong, Ph.D. San Francisco State University L. Penny Rosenblum, Ph.D. University of Arizona July 21, 2012 2012 AER International Conference
Slide 2 - Our Colleague Sheila Amato Couldn’t Join Us Today…
Slide 3 - We Had Some Questions... Are university programs adequately preparing future TVIs in abacus computation and instruction? What methods are they teaching? Is an abacus still regarded as an important tool for the math toolbox for students with VI? What resources do TVIs use to support abacus instruction? When do TVIs begin abacus instruction and what factors influence this decision? What are the personal beliefs of TVIs with regard to the abacus and its use by youth with VI?
Slide 4 - After all, the Abacus HAS Been Around for Many Years
Slide 5 - Important Points from the Literature Steinbrenner and Becker (1982) reported that universities were ineffective in their preparation of TVIs to teach abacus to students who are blind. Rapp and Rapp (1992) suggested that university personnel preparation programs should teach abacus to future TVIs and assist in the updating of skills of practicing TVIs.
Slide 6 - Important Points from the Literature Smith and Kelly (2007) reported that teacher preparation programs teach the abacus at different technology-awareness levels; 27% teach at the "awareness" level, 33% teach at the "proficient" level, and 40% teach at the "advanced level. Kapperman, Heinze, and Sticken (1997) noted that the abacus is useful because of its speed, accuracy, portability, and flexibility.
Slide 7 - Instrument Development Generated questions from our own work both as individuals who prepare TVIs and as TVIs. Used DatStat Illume® to put the questionnaire on-line. Field tested with 7 individuals for accessibility, item appropriateness, clarity of questions and instructions, and overall coherence of the survey tool.
Slide 8 - Demographic Data 196 participants Of 191 participants 9 Canadian / remainder from 39 states in the US Of 194 participants 14 male / 180 female 14 participants reported that they had a VI 38 used an abacus for their daily tasks 122 participants responded that they, in the past or currently, teach abacus skills 64 reported that they have not taught abacus skills
Slide 9 - How Did Participants Learn to Compute Using an Abacus? University preparation program (n=112) Self-study (n=92) Instruction by a colleague (n=26) Distance education school (i.e., Hadley School for the Blind) (n=18) Other ways participants listed included: From a student with VI As a child from own TVI As an adult through a VI rehab program through on-line videos From an individual of Asian descent
Slide 10 - Methods of Computation Counting Method: This method has the student count each bead as it is added or subtracted, moving from the unit beads to the 5 beads (but counting only 1 for all beads). There are also specific rules regarding certain numbers and operations, but fewer than the full set of secrets. (S. Millaway)
Slide 11 - Methods of Computation Logic or Partner Method: This method focuses on understanding the “what” and “why” of the steps in solving a problem on the abacus. It requires that the student know the partners or complements of the numbers up to ten (5=2+3, 5=1+4). This method uses synthesis when beads cannot be set directly. Verbalizing the steps and the reasons for each movement made on the abacus is an important feature of this approach. (R. Livingston)
Slide 12 - Methods of Computation Secret Method: This method focuses on the process of moving the abacus beads in a particular sequence, following a specific set of rules for different numbers and operations. It does not emphasize the understanding of that process, rather the rote memory of the bead movements. (M. Davidow)
Slide 13 - Methods of Computation Paper Compatible Method: The paper compatible method has the user complete problems in the same way an individual completes them using paper and pencil. The standard math facts are used, not the secrets or a series of questions. (D. Willoughby)
Slide 14 - Methods of Computation Hadley School for the Blind: This method uses the indirect method to teach the abacus. The indirect method combines both the logic or partner method and the secrets method. Complements are explained and students are expected to use that understanding to follow a specific set of rules for adding and subtracting.
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Slide 17 - Skills Taught in Personnel Preparation Programs A list of abacus skills were provided to the 112 participants who reported they learned to use an abacus as part of their university preparation program. For each skill they indicated if they: Learned the skill to proficiency Exposed to the skill No instruction or exposure to the skill Did not recall
Slide 18 - Highest Ranked Skills Taught to Proficiency in University Programs One digit addition without synthesis/secrets One digit subtraction without synthesis/secrets Two or more digits addition without synthesis/secrets One-to-one correspondence One digit addition with synthesis/secrets Two or more digit subtraction without synthesis/secrets
Slide 19 - Lowest Ranked Skills Taught to Proficiency in University Programs Decimals/money Record keeping (e.g., telephone number, score keeping) Fractions How to couple 2 abaci together to perform more lengthy computation tasks Square roots
Slide 20 - Are Universities Doing Their Job Well? “More competent trainers are needed to teach VI teachers how to teach more than just basic skills on the abacus.” “I hope prep[aration] improves for abacus training for TVIs and that AER or other continuing ed. for TVIs offer classes/sessions on improving skills in abacus.”
Slide 21 - Can Students Use an Abacus on High Stakes Tests? 121 (72%) reported “yes” 2 (1.2%) reported “no” 45 (26.8%) were unsure
Slide 22 - During 2011-2012 Did You Have a Student Using an Abacus in Math Class? 50 (33.8%) did not 49 (33.1%) had 1 student 26 (17.6%) had 2 students 23 (15.5%) had between 3 and 10 students
Slide 23 - A Participant Shares… “I've taught visually impaired students for many years and have seen the desire to include abacus instruction both increase and decrease throughout those years. Abacus instruction is vital for a visually impaired student.”
Slide 24 - During 2011-2012 Did You Have a Student with Abacus IEP Goals? 69 (46.9%) reported none 42 (28.6%) had 1 student 18 (12.2%) had 2 students 18 (12.3%) had 3 to 6 students
Slide 25 - What Method Do You Teach Your Students? 71 (48.0%) taught the counting method 57 (38.5%) taught a combination of methods 51 (34.5%) taught the logic/partner method 28 (18.9%) taught the paper compatible method 21 (14.2%) taught the secrets method 17 (11.5%) taught the Hadley School for the Blind method 12 (8.1%) didn’t recall the name of the method they used 7 (4.7%) taught a method they developed themselves
Slide 26 - Most Frequent Skills TVIs Teach to Students One digit addition without synthesis/secrets Two or more digits addition without synthesis/secrets One digit subtraction without synthesis/secrets Two or more digit subtraction without synthesis/secrets One digit as the multiplier multiplication One-to-one correspondence
Slide 27 - At What Age Do You Begin Abacus Instruction? 24 (17.5%) preschool 55 (40.1%) kindergarten 36 (26.3%) 1st grade 9 (6.6%) 2nd grade 6 (4.4%) 3rd grade 3 (2.2%) 4th grade 2 (1.5%) middle school 2 (1.5%) high school
Slide 28 - A Participant Shared… “I just start early in kindergarten with all of my students who have severe enough visual limitations so that they can participate in circle time when there is any counting going on so that they are exposed to the abacus, hold it correctly, work on fine motor skills, etc.”
Slide 29 - What Factors Do You Consider When Determining When to Begin Abacus Instruction? 105 (70.9%) academic abilities 71 (48.0%) if the student is blind 67 (45.3%) fine motor abilities 49 (33.1%) grade in school 24 (16.2%) chronological age 24 (16.2%) if the student has low vision
Slide 30 - Participants Shared… “Mostly I think, ‘What does this kid need to know?’ or ‘What is preventing this kid from moving on with his classmates in math skills?’ and if the answer is something that the abacus can make concrete for him/her, I go with it.”  “I teach abacus to any child who cannot easily access scrap paper.”
Slide 31 - Why Don’t You Teach Abacus Skills to Your Students? TVI RELATED RESPONSES FELL INTO THESE CATEGORIES: The TVI didn’t believe he/she was an effective instructor in his/her abacus skills. The TVI lacked confidence to teach abacus skills. The TVI didn’t know where to get updated training. The TVI didn’t have time to teach abacus skills. The TVI didn’t have a paraprofessional to follow up on abacus skills with students. The TVI didn’t like the abacus himself/herself.
Slide 32 - A Participant Shares… “The abacus fills a role no other tool serves for students who are braille readers. All TVIs should be proficient in using the abacus, so that they can pull it out of THEIR toolbox, when it is appropriate.”
Slide 33 - Why Don’t You Teach Abacus Skills to Your Students? STUDENT RELATED RESPONSES FELL INTO THESE CATEGORIES Students use mental math. The abacus is not an appropriate tool for the student. Chronologically the students are not ready for the abacus (e.g., infants, preschoolers). Students have difficulty learning abacus skills. Students utilize technology for computation.
Slide 34 - What Resources Do You Use? Abacus Basic Competency: A Counting Method (Millaway, 2001) Use of the Cranmer Abacus (Livingston, 1997) Abacus Made Easy (Davidow 1988) Materials from Hadley School for the Blind’s abacus course The video: Hands-on Experience with the Cranmer Abacus (Pester, n.d.) YouTube Materials from university preparation courses
Slide 35 - Your Attitude as a TVI Impacts What You Teach and the Message You Give Your Students “A teacher's competence and attitude have a great impact on a student's potential for success with the Cranmer Abacus. Therefore, a teacher must be skilled in the use of the Cranmer Abacus, convey a positive attitude toward it, and demonstrate its relevance to the student.” Kapperman, Heinze & Sticken, 2000, p. 385
Slide 36 - TVIs Beliefs About the Abacus 146 participants completed this section 15 statements were provided Participants rated each statement from strongly disagree to strongly agree using a 5-point Likert scale.
Slide 37 - Five Statements with the Highest Ratings Whenever a test taker is allowed to use a paper and pencil for working calculations, an abacus should be considered an equivalent substitution for a student who is visually impaired. (M = 4.46) An abacus provides a student who is visually impaired an easily accessible, portable, inexpensive tool. (M = 4.35)
Slide 38 - Five Statements with the Highest Ratings The abacus is analogous to pencil and scratch paper for sighted individuals. (M = 4.23) An abacus is a vital component of the “blindness specific” tools for a student’s academic toolbox. (M = 4.09) The abacus is a valuable tool for students who are visually impaired. (M = 4.07)
Slide 39 - Abacus “Believers” Share… “I believe the abacus is not obsolete and a critical [tool] for students with vision impairments to know in order to make informed decisions about appropriate math tools.” “I think the abacus is an extremely valuable tool and should not be discounted. Our students need many ways of completing math tasks (just as sighted students have many ways of completing math tasks.”
Slide 40 - Five Statements with the Lowest Ratings There are more efficient tools (e.g., talking calculator, portable notetakers) than an abacus. (M = 2.76) The time spent teaching abacus is better spent teaching a student other skills specific to his/her visual impairment (e.g., braille, assistive technology). (M = 2.08)
Slide 41 - Five Statements with the Lowest Ratings Because of my own perceived lack of expertise with abacus skills, I am not comfortable teaching students who are visually impaired to use the abacus. (M = 1.93) The abacus is obsolete. (M = 1.74) Students who are visually impaired can do math computation in their heads or through rote memorization and do not need to learn the abacus. (M = 1.71)
Slide 42 - Why Participants Don’t Teach Abacus Skills “I do not have the knowledge or skills to be an effective abacus instructor for my students.” (n=10, 31.3%) “My students use mental math or rote memorization to complete mathematical computation.” (n=10, 31.3%) “I am no longer confident in my abacus skills because I have not taught abacus in a long time/ever.” (n=8, 25.0%)
Slide 43 - Why Participants Don’t Teach Abacus Skills “I work with students who do not have the ability to complete simple addition/subtraction using objects so the abacus is not an appropriate tool.” (n=8, 25.0%) “I don’t know where to go to get updated training in abacus skills.” (n=7, 21.9%) “I work with students who are infants, toddlers and/or preschoolers who are not yet developmentally ready to use the abacus.” (n=5, 15.6%) “I do not have time to work 1:1 with a student to teach him/her the abacus.” (n=2, 6.3%)
Slide 44 - Why Participants Don’t Teach Abacus Skills “I do not have a paraprofessional or other staff member who can follow through on abacus instruction when I am not with the student.” (n=2, 6.3%) Other reasons stated: Students have low vision. Students use technology such as calculators. Students are not developmentally ready for abacus skills instruction.
Slide 45 - Participants Share… “Although I would be the one to teach abacus skills, the curriculum needs of the student and accessibility of electronic technology, makes it an ineffective tool in the 21st century.” “It's a hard sell to get the student to buy into the value of knowing how to use an abacus because they're so used to relying on a calculator. It's also difficult to explain to educators why the abacus is important.”
Slide 46 - In Summary… The Counting and Logic/Partner methods are most frequently taught in university programs. Those prepared at the university level report proficiency with addition and subtraction at a higher rate than with other operations/skills. The abacus is still viewed as an efficient tool that provides students with visual impairment access to mathematics computation.
Slide 47 - We Couldn’t Agree More… “I believe in Alan Koenig's ‘toolbox’. The Cranmer Abacus is a tool that should be in the toolbox of any academic student for whom pencil and paper isn't convenient. If THEY choose not to use it, that is their choice.”
Slide 48 - In Many Ways We Have More Questions Than Answers… Are universities providing adequate preparation in a variety of computation methods? Do TVIs value the abacus and make instruction in abacus computation a priority? What is the role of the abacus in the age of technology? Is there a need to develop up-to-date interactive resources?
Slide 49 - An Abacus is a Tool in the Toolbox…It Can’t Do It All!
Slide 50 - Where We’re Headed… Look for two upcoming articles in JVIB Development of an abacus app by Dr. Rosenblum Consideration of a study with youth to evaluate their skills and beliefs related to the abacus YOUR IDEAS????