Common Myths About Dyscalculia and Math Learning Disabilities

What is dyscalculia? Dyscalculia is a specific learning disability in math. Kids with dyscalculia may have difficulty understanding number-related concepts or using symbols or functions needed for success in mathematics.

It’s not as well known or understood as dyslexia. But some experts believe it’s just as common. Experts don’t yet know for sure if dyscalculia is more common in girls or in boys. But most agree it’s unlikely that there’s any significant difference.

Dyscalculia goes by many names. Some schools refer to it as a mathematics learning disability. Doctors sometimes call it a mathematics disorder. You may even hear kids and parents call it math dyslexia. (The term math dyslexia can be misleading, though Dyscalculia and dyslexia are not the same.)

They often don’t understand quantities or concepts like biggest vs. smallest. They may not understand that the numeral 5 is the same as the word five. (These skills are sometimes called number sense.)

Kids with dyscalculia also have trouble with the mechanics of doing math, such as being able to recall math facts. They may understand the logic behind math, but not how or when to apply what they know to solve math problems.

Who says dyscalculia isn’t common?

Here are five common myths about dyscalculia—and the facts to debunk them.

Source: Common Myths About Dyscalculia and Math Learning Disabilities

“June-teenth” Anyone???

On this day, June 19, 1865, the lawful practice of slavery in these United States of America was officially abolished, terminated, never-more. This is a very important day in our national history, but you can almost bet that very, very few people know the meaning-the significance- of this date in the lives of not only people of color, African-Americans, but it is a symbolic date for all Americans.

We all are aware that  holding African people in bondage was a practice of the  grossly inhumane treatment of people of color, Africans, then African-Americans, from the very founding of this nation. To date,  we remain a nation unwilling to reflect, examine, reconcile or teach about this major part of U.S. history. Yes, we do teach about slavery, pre-Civil War era in our nation’s K-12 public and private schools, but we spend a yearly average of one 40-minute instructional period fully devoted to this part of our nation’s past.

We neglect to tell children, at critical ages in their development and before their worldviews are rigidly formed, about the most horrible sins committed in this country. Yet, we explore, in great depth, the cruelties, genocide, and the inhumanities of other countries against its own people or other human beings. Our versions are cloaked under the umbrella of religious beliefs or political ideologies to explain the rise of ‘terrorism’ and ‘radicalization’ of their citizenry. Quite the irony, though! According to news sources and political propaganda, the internal strife within foreign nations have existed maybe 50 years, at best.

Our inhumane treatment of other human beings, our citizenry, 1/4 citizenry, persisted more than 246 years. That is generation upon generation of the practices, policies, procedures,, and perspectives, which, by now, are deeply entrenched in this nation’s collective sub-conscious. By the way, in the state of Texas, for example, post Civil War, they continued to enslave blacks for at least three years. After the Emancipation Proclamation was officially signed, it wasn’t until two years that ‘slaves’ were freed. That is but one such example of the refusal to relinquish such powers over others; a way of life. Entitlement?

Before the 1st draft of our U.S. Constitution, upon which we still rely, and are governed by, there were enslaved humans in America. When the pilgrims arrived on this soil, as political refugees, explorers and immigrants, they brought the 1st Africans with them. They were not met with savages as some wanted others to believe. They encountered indigenous peoples already living and inhabiting the country. In 1865, slavery was no longer a legally sanctioned practice in the slave holding states, but the practice did not end there, on that very day or in that same year.

In the minds of many whites, they became entitled to ‘own’ people as property. They had learned that in order to detach themselves from emotions, or empathy for these people, they had to convince themselves and everyone else that those practices were not wrong or cruel at all. Thus was borne negative imagery, stereotypes, and segregation, etc…. As we progressed a few more generations, people began to acknowledge some of those policies, rights and practices, decreed in our founding documents that impacted people at all levels of society,  were designed in preservation of the ‘acquired’ entitlement, privilege, and dehumanization of blacks was immensely wrong, self-serving and sinful.

Pseudo-scientific research was provided to slave-owners and whites in general, and even though free people, there was still resentment of these persons who no longer had to ‘obey’ as subservient pieces of property, and the cessation of  free labor. I compare the subsequent actions, and residual discontentment with progress to a child who lost a former friend, and now that this person left, they wanted to prevent anyone else from becoming friends. So, what kids do is they ‘bad-mouth’ that person-everywhere they went to prevent happiness, and make themselves feel better. Also, in the back of their minds is the hopes for their misery to bring their return. But, it doesn’t happen! This brought more anger, and so there was an escalation- laws like Jim Crow, voting restrictions, and a host of others.

Here we are with unacknowledged, untaught, misunderstood HIS-story in the 21st Century, and there is divisiveness to no end. What happens when you grow accustomed to a certain way of life, a way of looking at life, and others, is that when things begin to change, we will often resist. It is not an easy challenge to exercise bravery and confront mistakes and then actually change that which goes against the very things we inherently understand are wrong. We make excuses, we pretend we don’t see it, we look to someone else should there be fault.

June-teenth is a significant day for the U.S., on par with The 4th of July. Independence day, yes! Independent of remnants, not yet! America has never been great, except at bullying and hood-winking others whom they quietly consider ‘inferior’, until the goals are met. At that point, friendship, camaraderie and supportive intent disappears. I love our nation, but we must take an honest look at ourselves, and try to take a look from someone else’s perspective in relation to that which we consider ‘different’ or ‘diversity’. Fortunately, we can get there. We can be great, but honesty precedes greatness.

It won’t be easy, but anything worth having is usually not very easy, simple or uncomplicated. We are worth it, we can and must cultivate the empathy required to broaden perspectives, reflect, revise, and reimagine the values upon which this nation was founded. With the sincere desire for a peaceful tomorrow, we must fully examine yesterday and begin the work today.

Our children don’t have to repeat the mistakes we have made, because we all do. In order that they learn to act, believe and relate to one another differently, we will demonstrate to them exactly what the mistakes were, whom they harmed, how we have covered them up, and then they will better understand how to avoid them. We can end the cycle, and start when they are young. Teach age-appropriate truths,  no omission of cause and effect in any aspect of life impacted by human beings. Cultivate compassion and empathy, and out of these emotions comes tolerance, respect and appreciation of the historic symbolism of June-teenth in America.

Intent, impact; cause, effect.

Bring Juneteenth to school!

 

A Landmark Inter-racial Union: “Loving” Without Limits

Recently, the New York Times published an article related to and as part of their series, “Race/Related’, about interracial unions, love and marriage. Coincidentally, this month marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision of Loving vs. Virginia.

Before I add my thoughts on what it meant for the Lovings-Mildred and Richard, and all Americans, I have to give a little background. My in-laws are not too distant relatives to the Lovings. When my former husband and I were married, he told me of this couple  who had fled the county because of their love for one another and their subsequent marriage[they were actually married in D.C.]. His family were the Jeter-Johnsons of  Caroline County. They were a family of blacks who were of mixed heritage, although in this county, blacks and whites lived near each other rather peacefully. Mixed with Native American, white and black blood, this family were of the hue that could ‘pass’ for white, as it was called. This meant that when leaving their town and migrating  north, if you didn’t know many of my in-laws’ family history, they would be viewed as white, Hispanic…all but black. They ‘passed’,  but in Bowling Green, everyone knew and didn’t have to deny any part of their heritage for fear of undue hardships associated with being black in America.

The history is that their cousin Mildred fell in love with a white man and at that time, it was forbidden, illegal, immoral, and just unacceptable to the powers-that-be. Ironically, the families in that area, for the most part, were all of mixed heritage, and because of this very mixing of the races, children were born and thus very few could say that there was any ‘pure’ single race lineage. What made the Loving story so profoundly different is that they dared to display their love for one another publicly, and their return to their places of birth was considered criminal[a felony] show of voluntary defiance of  laws against it.

My husband’s family-the Jeter[-Johnsons], also Mildred’s family, lived and were raised in a part of the south where Mayflies abound,  follow and chase you, and will bite if given a chance. Those insects always traumatized me when I visited the family burial grounds. In order to get to the plots, you must travel deep into and through a wooded area, and make it past those darn mayflies. But, that was their home, and it was beautifully peaceful, too. It was so, so close to Aberdeen Proving Grounds, a stretch of land for military training activities. If, at any time, day or night, there were disturbingly loud noises, guns and other artillary,  that was the source- the Proving Grounds.

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So, here we are, many years later and interracial unions are more open, more accepted, and looked upon less negatively as those years ago. Where this story parallels with my life, is in the life of my oldest daughter, the USAF Major and Instructor Pilot. She met and fell in love with a great, handsome young man, also a USAF Major and Instructor Pilot. He just happened to be white. But, so what! They’re in love and still going strong after almost nine years of marriage and military life.

I remember  my youngest daughter’s initial confrontation with racial identity. She came to me when she was about 10 years old and asked, “Mom, what am I?” She was asking this because her dad always boasted the native American and white parts, but he underplayed his African-American roots. She was confused also because when we went to Bowling Green in Caroline County, Virginia, everyone was closer to her complexion and for the Jeter-Johnson clan,  there was a fine line between what we perceive as white and black.

She had been asked to complete a school survey, and she had to self-identify. Her hair was/is very long, complexion fair, and she didn’t fit into any exact racial mold. So, hoping that she could embrace the fullness of her heritage, establish her own identity, I told her how she’s unique, but not to be defined solely by race- defined by her character. Make no mistakes that she, my children are black, African-American, but more importantly, I wanted her to understand that she is an American and an individual worthy of love and respect.

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the little one

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my daughter’s family

My oldest daughter and her husband, my adorable son-in-law, recently had a little baby girl. She has blue eyes, and sandy blond hair, and she, too will be considered black by hard-nosed individuals, though she is of mixed descent. She certainly should not discount or deny neither the African-American, White or Native American or any other part of her heritage. Actually, we are all a conglomeration of many ethnicities, races, and so forth, and that alone should dictate that we demonstrate our respect and appreciation for one another and ourselves. We are all family!

My granddaughter is loved, and will certainly face challenges and will have questions. But, with the love she receives at home, she will take that with her out into the world, and spread that love to all. To me, and hopefully everyone she meets in life will not see her within the boundaries of race, but in the fullness of her uniqueness as an individual.

It seems that as far as we have traveled to rise out from the mire and murk of segregation, separatism, and racial prejudice, we should have advanced towards the inherent equality of all human beings, who breathe the same air, and wish for a fulfilling life. Yea though we still have a long way to go, MLK’s dream is still alive and we must continue to fight for the realization of democracy and authentic human equality in America.

My greatest hope is that my granddaughter, your children, and your children’s children will live and thrive in a global society where the content of character reigns supreme over skin color, religious beliefs or background. We deserve to be better than yesterday and live better today, as we plan for a better future.

To Mildred and Richard Loving- Here’s to 50 years of interracial progress! My children stand on your shoulders with pride in their interracial love and marriage and friendships, as well! Thank you to all who dare to love without limits! Let’s all love without limits!

Read at least one story about this couple, or the NY Times article for more information about this couple who only wanted to love, live and raise their children in peace in America. testimonyShare your story. Everyone has one.

By Any Other Name…. It Is Still Called Segregation

Interestingly, within a U.S. city as sophisticated, cosmopolitan, and diversely populated as New York City, it boggles the mind that their public education system encompasses all five boroughs, flows through so many different communities, cultures and yet… an overwhelmingly segregated school system.

The New York City Department of Education (DOE) is the largest school district in the U.S., serving 1.1 million students in over 1,800 schools. Nearly 77% of the students live in or near poverty, and combined, black and Hispanic students make up over 70% of their enrollment. Teachers remain overwhelmingly white, and represent significant cultural mismatches, but that doesn’t mean that this is necessarily problematic. Race and culture don’t determine efficacy. The ‘problems’ exist in a different realm.

Of late, the focus is on student demographic data, disaggregated by race and class. This means, plainly spoken, the student populations are not reflected in the schools they attend and there is a recognizable pattern of enrollment across the city’s schools. This pattern suggests extreme segregation due to clustering. Black kids go to school with black kids. White kids with white kids, affluent with affluent-no healthy cross-section. Newly unveiled plans to address the disturbing patterns in a number of ways.

#1. Plans are to make the schools representative of the overall student population. Over 70% of students in all school districts across the 5 boroughs of NYC are black and Hispanic, who represent 30% and 40% respectively. However, school enrollment demographics do not reflect those numbers. So, soon the general enrollment is to be less segregated by race and more balanced student diversity.

#2. Schools are greatly segregated along class lines as well. Duh! The proposed changes once again are to be more reflective of the general population. Some schools have large numbers of high needs students enrolled  in similarly disproportionate fashion. Even the ‘limited selection’ schools are about to be tweaked in terms of their enrollment/admissions process.

Normal selection process in such schools, has interest that determines the student selection for attendance. If students attend open houses, as an expression of interest in those schools, then they are selected to enroll. This process places many students in poorer families at a disadvantage. The affordability of transportation, time off work, etc… are factors that limit their access. So, that will change, too. Of course, all such changes will be incremental. No one can withstand radical change, it seems. How radical is de-segregation? In the 21st Century?

 

It is noteworthy that in all new school proposals to be implemented by the Department of Education, not anywhere is explicit language used to describe the root symptom of the identified problems-segregation and integration. Instead, diversity is the common term to describe de-segregation of public schools.

Diversity is everywhere we look, and everywhere we go, and within every school’s core student population, no matter the racial make-up. But, the ‘implied’ in this students of color and students of families with lower household incomes are not attending every school at numbers that reflect the city-wide student demographic.

Let’s call it what it is, NYC…SEGREGATION !!

 

 

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change, too. Of course, all such changes will be incremental. No one can withstand radical change, it seems. How radical is de-segregation? In the 21st Century!

It is just noteworthy and questionable that in all new proposals, not anywhere is explicit language used to describe the root problem-segregation, integration. Instead, diversity is the coined term. Diversity is everywhere we look, and everywhere we go, and within every school’s core student population, no matter the racial make-up. But, the ‘implied’ students of color and students of families with lower household incomes are not attending every school at numbers that reflect the city-wide student demographic population. We’re still evading the main issue.

Additional noteworthiness in these new plans is that there is a clear absence of any plans for staff training, professional development, diversity workshops, cultural proficiency courses, or any system-wide, initiatives that will be undertaken at all levels in aim to prepare and equip school based staff for the new slice of ‘diversity’ soon to enter their school buildings and classrooms. Segreation didn’t happen by chance, but by deliberated choice, therefore by design.  Not only is re-design an imperative, but so is the general re-design of the framework of policies, practices, procedures, programs, and personnel, too.

Best practices, as an informational guide to all of the above, need to be re-evaluated, revised, researched, and reconsidered in all school environments. If student populations are to change, radically, in some cases, we will merely start a ‘grease fire’ in districts across the city without well thought out transitional processes. There are a number of components about which we mustn’t neglect in this design, should we wish for success and positively impact all lives.

Prepare the students themselves, for when students acquire the tools, mindsets, that enable them to appreciate, respect, and not just tolerate differences, they will be more eager to collaborate in and outside of school settings.

Proactively prepare the staff, for when staff acquire the tools that will enhance their already present competencies with cultural competence, they will experience less job-related stress, and will develop and sustain relationships with students and families. Differentiated instruction will be delivered with optimal positive outcomes. Win-Win!

Prepare the community, PARENTS AT THE TOP OF THAT LIST, for when the community stakeholders are informed, involved, invited, and aligned with mission, and school-related decisions, we empower an entire community, and gain powerful, influential allies, too. Win-Win!

Prepare ourselves. Essentially, we must be individually and then collectively ready to facilitate true educational equity, and ensure school success for every child, and partner with every parent. All students can then engage, learn, thrive, and travel the pathways to potential recognized and realized within this new structural design of 21st century learning environments. The absolute 1st step before incrementally introducing physical shifts, transfers, district changes being proposed here.

That part of the preparation process that exists to impact every student in every classroom is in the curriculum (re-)design. Must, must, must be overhauled, more inclusive, and respectful and responsively incorporate into academic and life lessons all different faces, races, religions, cultures, communities, etc…

Instruction, supported and supplemented by the inclusion of real life, present and past in all forms, is both relevant and engaging. Besides preparing students to engage in a global society, respect ‘diversity’ and feel validated, they will certainly enjoy learning in the classrooms much more than they do today, or more than their parents may have appreciated or enjoyed school yesterday.

How will students learn to respect ‘different’ if they don’t learn about different people, different experiences, realities, histories, traditions, opinions, worldviews? How can a black child feel good about him/herself if they never learn about themselves through learning about others who look like themselves? Certainly, we aren’t that far removed from reality that we actually expect an overwhelming majority of black children to excel at, near or greater levels than their counterparts with the content provided in schools today. Motivating students to want to learn, achieve, dream, engage, and behave depends as much on content as relationship between teachers, families and student.

Children, by and large, are taught throughout their k-12 education by learning about white people, through white eyes, from white perspectives. That doesn’t work, and with increasing diversity, we must use the current data on instructional content and achievement to better inform us. Everything about education must change, and this means the curriculum; not subject, not rigor – the lack of contextual diversity and cultural relevance must be altered.  We expect black kids to learn and want to learn about Pythagoras theory, but we don’t tell them that this math pioneer was of African descent.

Oh, sure! We throw a few bones to black kids each year, but how long should they have to wait before school become places where they want to be, not just mandated to be?

 

FOR NOW, LET’S CALL IT WHAT IT IS, PEOPLE….. DE-SEGREGATION!