Thursday, March 28, 2013

Teacher of ACC Student - Teaching Multiplication through Skip-Counting

Alexandra Berube is a former Kindergarten teacher, who taught a student with Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum in her Kindergarten class (and she also tutors the student). The student is currently in a regular 3rd grade mainstream class.

Alexandra has written several guest blog articles about her teaching experiences with her student who has Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum. Her article today is about teaching multiplication using skip counting.

You may like to view a previous article, written by Alexandra last year, regarding Introducing Multiplication to her student with ACC.

Math is an abstract subject that many kids who have Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum find very challenging.

*Alexandra's article below reprinted with permission from Dr. Alicia Holland-Johnson, where it originally appeared as a guest blog posting on her Helping Tutors Become Their Best blog.


Teaching Multiplication through Skip-Counting to a Student with Special Needs
by Alexandra Berube,

I have a student with a rare condition: Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum (a complete or partial absence of the corpus callosum, the band connecting the two hemispheres in the brain). He struggles with mental math and memorizing facts, and benefits from a more visual and tactile approach. I don't specifically use Touch Math with him, but I do incorporate those concepts. Multiplication through memorization tends to be the main way that students are taught nowadays. They are given drill after drill, hoping that rote memorization will be enough to keep the facts grounded into their heads. But what if they don't understand why they're multiplying, and what multiplication really means?

It is very important to me that my students understand why a math concept works. I introduced multiplication to this student by expanding on what he knew about addition. If we have two of something, and then we have two groups of those, then we have 2×2. He adapted to the concept of multiplication very quickly, but it's another thing to then be able to multiply larger products.

We practiced with skip counting, the concept of 'counting-by,' such as counting by twos (2, 4, 6, 8). If we had one 2, and then we had another 2, we would have two 2s. If we added another 2, we would have three 2s. This looks like 2×2, 2×3, etc. We connected each sum to the concept of multiplication, until he grasped that counting by 2s would give him the multiples of two.

We then worked on 5s, because it's just easy for kids to count by five, and they've been practicing since kindergarten. Then he knew the multiples of five. Next came three, but that was harder for him. He's getting used to the multiples of three enough to memorize them somewhat, but what he tends to do is start at one number, count up three to the next number, and so on, using his fingers to guide him along the way. So he started with six, with his thumb pointed up, then counted up three until he got to nine on his pointer finger, counted up three until he got to 12 on his middle finger, and so on.

With fours, I introduced the idea of actually skip counting as he counted by twos. So this way he would count two, four, six, eight, and omit every other number. We practiced this by verbally counting by twos and whispering every other number while saying louder every other number (say 2 out loud, whisper 4, say 6 out loud, etc.). We also did this visually by writing out 2, 4, 6, 8 and then crossing out every other number. Once he has a better handle on his threes, we will be doing the same thing in order to master sixes (skip counting every other multiple).

When he gets to a multiplication problem, we have a strategy for when one of the two numbers is five or below (if both numbers are above five he has to draw it out--for 6×6 he draws six dots six times--not the most efficient strategy but we’re working our way up). He underlines the smaller number, knowing he's going to skip count by that number the amount of times indicated by the other number. So if it's 2×4, he would underline the two, and count by twos four times (2, 4, 6, 8).

Over time, he is memorizing more and more of the products, and the multiplication drills that he's doing at school will certainly benefit this as well. But it's so important that he understands why he's multiplying and has additional strategies for when memorization fails him. I'm sure all adults have gotten to a mental block at some point where we just can't remember a multiple of seven, or eight. Teaching multiplication through memorization should be a backdrop to a greater understanding of what the student is really doing.

About Alexandra Berube

Alexandra is the Managing Director of Boston Tutoring Services, a tutoring company that offers one-to-one in-home tutoring in Massachusetts. She is also a former Kindergarten teacher who also tutors students in grades
K-8, in all subject areas, including test preparation.

--click below for printable version of this article--

Teaching Multiplication through Skip-Counting to a Student with Special Needs - printable version

As a teacher and professional tutor, Alexandra might possibly share a few more guest blog posts here in the future--where she will reveal additional insight into her student who has Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum and how it affects the student's education, and she will also be sharing teaching strategies that have helped her student.*

*Note: Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum has a very wide range of effects--ranging anywhere from no symptoms--or mild learning disabilities--to severe mental and/or physical challenges. It can sometimes also be seen with other medical conditions, genetic syndromes, chromosomal anomalies and more. Every person with ACC can present differently in terms of their development, cognitive abilities and educational needs.

Each child who has ACC is a unique individual with their own abilities, weaknesses, challenges, motivations, strengths, as well as their own style of learning.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Meet Bradley - An Adult with ACC

Last year I received an e-mail from Sarah in Australia who informed me that she would like to share her adult brother, Bradley's, ACC story. I was very excited to receive a second e-mail from Sarah in February (telling her brother's story). With her brother's permission (and her help writing) I am very honored and so grateful to be able to share Bradley's ACC Story here with you.

Updated on March 31, 2013

~~Written by Bradley's Sister~~

Bradley and his sister, Sarah, on his 21st birthday

Bradley turned 21 on 29th September 2012. Brad's ACC is quite severe compared to some of the stories on the blog.

I'd like to hear from some other families who care for a person with this type of severity.

At the time of Brad's diagnosis there was 4 known cases in Australia. A lot of people confuse Brad's ACC with cerebral palsy. His speech is impaired and physically his feet are tense and will not flex. He wears orthotics with shoes when walking and also canadian sticks -- (below)

but cannot stand up straight. He bends over and his knees still bend in. He has had two operations to try to straighten his legs.

He sometimes has accidents with wetting the bed. This has improved greatly with age. But sometimes needs reminding/asking.

Overall Brad is a very happy young adult. He has a great memory. He is an attention seeker and can sometimes get angry if things don't go his own way.


When did you find out that you have ACC? How old?

About 6 months, Brad's reactions were slow. Brad received services from a physio, speech and occupational therapist prior to school.

What did you struggle with in school?

Attention span and concentration.

What did you enjoy most and do well at in school?

Enjoyed the library and borrowing books.

Did you struggle with social skills in school?

Not at all - loves attention and willing to talk to anyone even though his speech is impaired.

Did you make friends easily in school?

Yes he has many friends from his special needs unit at school.

Do you still struggle today with social skills as an adult?

Now that Brad has finished school he stays in touch with friends from school and made new friends at his day program.

Did you attend a mainstream classroom?

They had a separate classroom but integrated with other kids during lunch breaks.

Can you ride a bike and drive a car?

Brad could ride a modified bike during primary school Age 5-9. Brad cannot drive. Brad's first operation to straighten his legs was at 13 and the next operation was at 15. After his second operation the pressure on his knees was too much and therefore resulted in Brad spending 95% of time in his wheelchair.

Did you attend college? Did you get a degree?

No and No.

Do you have a job and if so what do you do?

No. Brad attends a program 4 days a week and does hydro therapy once a *fortnight. *[every two weeks]

Are you married? Single?

Brad is single but has a close girl friend Nicole that he visits often.

Do you have children?


How does ACC affect you today as an adult?

Effects his life everyday. He can feed himself and transfer from his wheelchair into a car or onto a toilet seat. But he cannot shower himself, brush his own teeth, dress himself, cook for himself, etc.

What do you enjoy doing the most in life...

Playing bowling on the Wii sports, Playing with his Ipad. Cooking books.

I asked Sarah a couple of questions in regard to a few of her replies above:

1. You wrote that Brad really likes cooking books. I'm curious if he likes to read them or just look at the photos in the cooking books or what intrigues him?

Brad loves looking at the photos and he wants people to help him make the recipes. He can't read but recently he has been watching YouTube videos and asking people to write down the recipes to help him cook.

2. You mentioned that Brad is very social and loves to interact with people but has difficulty because his speech is impaired. I am wondering if Brad's main form of communication is verbal or if he possibly uses another method of communication (in addition to his verbal speech), if I may ask? And, if so, what type of other speech/communication method/device does he use to help him communicate with friends and other people?

No he only uses speech but after spending some time with him you can generally start to understand him. Sometimes you have to guess other words that sound like it and he will let you know if it is correct. He uses an ipad and can usually show photos of his latest outings so people can understand where he's been and what he's talking about.

What are you passionate about?

His dog (toy poodle) Bailey, Enjoying food with family and visiting friends, taking photos and swimming.

Bradley and his dog, Bailey

Do you have a specific goal or dream that you are passionate about and would like to achieve?

To go overseas to Hawaii.

Bradley, 21 years old (written by his sister, Sarah)
February 19, 2013

Sarah expressed an interest in hearing from other families who care for a grown child with ACC who have similarities with her brother, Bradley. 

If you would like to contact Sarah, you can leave a comment here for her. Or you are welcome to email Sarah.  

In addition, if you would like to post a message for Bradley in regard to his ACC Story,  please leave a comment for Bradley

They would both enjoy hearing from you.

If you are an adult who has ACC or a corpus callosum
disorder, do you want to share your story?

Each person is unique. Every story is welcome and
every story is worthy.

I would love to hear from you. Please send me an e-mail