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December 31, 2002

Math gets revamping at Clarke

From: Hampshire Gazette, MA - 31 Dec 2002

By RYAN DAVIS, Staff Writer Tuesday, December 31, 2002 --

NORTHAMPTON - It may not always be obvious, but teaching math involves more than simply manipulating numbers.

The challenging ways in which math and language interact are particularly apparent for hearing-impaired children. For that reason, Clarke School for the Deaf is planning to revamp its math curriculum with the help of a $25,000 grant from the American Honda Foundation.

Math and science teacher Robert Storm, who coordinated the grant application with fellow teacher Kathi Shea, said, "The fundamental issue in educating (hearing-impaired students) is language."

To that end, the new curriculum not only will stress ways to teach word problems and other math topics that directly involve language, but also use books not necessarily about math to teach math concepts.

Julia "Judy" Sheldon, supervisor of Clarke's lower school department (K-4), said the school has been revising how it teaches math for several years. She explained that deaf students who work well with numbers often find word problems much more challenging.

"Teachers are using a hands-on approach to math, and with this grant, we'll be able to encourage a lot more of that use," she said. "It's very exciting."

With the Honda grant, the school will buy books and other materials for the new curriculum, which Storm hopes will be in place in about two years.

The proposed changes "would affect the entire math program," he said. "Every teacher would be directly or indirectly impacted."

Storm said one of the most important aspects of the new math program is its application beyond hearing-impaired students. The concepts developed at Clarke also could be used to teach math to English-as-a-second-language and special-needs students, he said.

Preparation of the grant application took several years, Storm said. It was accelerated by the success of Clarke's new economics program, itself funded by grant money.

"For a large school, $25,000 is not much money," he said of the grant. "But for a small school like us, it will make a huge difference."

Ryan Davis can be reached at