Tag Archives: task analysis

Mailbag Jan 29 2018

A reader asked about an algebra 2 problem and shared (below) his effort to cut up the math into bite-sized pieces. I greatly appreciate his effort because he is trying to meet student needs. While this post is very “mathy” I want to make a couple of points to the readers. First, I wrote out a detailed response (2nd photo below). Second, in both of our efforts we attempted unpack as much as possible. This is what our students need. Also, the reader is developing his ability to do this unpacking and if he continues he will become increasingly more adept at this skill (growth mindset). That means his future students will benefit!

dougs question about axis of symmetryaxis of symmetry problem broken down

 

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Cutting Up the Math Into Bite-sized Pieces

When I train new math and special education teachers I explain that teaching math should be like feeding a hot dog to a baby in a high chair. Cut up the hot dog into bite-sized pieces. The baby will still consumer the entire hot dog. Same with math. Our students can consume the entire math topic being presented but in smaller chunks.

bite sized pieces

My approach to doing this is through a task analysis. This is very similar to chunking. It is a method to cut up the math into bite-sized pieces just as we would break up a common task for students with special needs.

Image result for task analysis

While waiting for my coffee order at a Burger King I saw on the wall a different version of a task analysis. It was a step by step set of directions using photos on how to pour a soft cream ice-cream cone. I thought it was amazing that Burger King can do such a good job training its employees by breaking the task down yet in education we often fall short in terms of breaking a math topic down.

soft cream icecream cone task analysis

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CTSPEDMATHDUDE Approach to Teaching Math

The purpose for having this website is to share my approach to teaching math. The approach is the use of special ed principles brought to bear on math. Specifically, I use a task analysis approach to break down a math topic into “bite-sized” pieces and to use a variety of instructional strategies and reinforcement to move the student through the individual tasks towards mastery of the math topic (including conceptual understanding).

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Making Slope Less Complicated

slope-graph-real-life-application

Slope is the rate of change associated with a line. This is a challenging topic especially when presented in the context of a real life application like the one shown in the photo. The graphed function has different sections each with a respective slope.

One aspect of slope problems that is challenging is the different contexts of the numbers:

  • The yellow numbers represent time
  • The orange numbers represent altitude
  • The pink numbers represent the slopes of the lines (the one on the far right is missing a negative)

Before having students find or compute slope I present the problem as shown in the photo above and discuss the meaning of the different numbers. What I find is that students get the different numbers confused and teachers often overlook this challenge. This approach is part of a task analysis approach in which the math topic is broken into smaller, manageable parts for the student to consume. Once the different types of numbers are established for the students we can focus on actually computing and interpreting the slope.

This instructional strategy is useful for all grade levels and all math topics.

 

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Documents for Task Analysis Presentation – DADD 2017 Conference

dadd-conference

task-analysis-overview

Here is a link to a Dropbox folder with the documents I will address in my presentation. (Note: documents will not be uploaded until Jan 19, 2017.)

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Documents for Webinars on Supporting Students with Autism in Math

pic_tristate_logosm

Link to Drop Box folder for webinar on Task Analysis

Link to Drop Box folder for webinar on Making Math Meaningful (note: the folder is not populated with handouts with excerpts shown on the video. These documents will be available in the folder by Oct 16.

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Targeting Gaps in a Math Topic

percent vs monetary value

A key to intervention for math is to drill down into a topic to see which step is causing a student problems. This is a big reason why ongoing progress monitoring is vital to intervention.

In this case a student in a previous session had occasionally added the percent to the dollar amounts – the step that was problematic. He conceptually wasn’t thinking about the meaning of the values but just added or subtracted numbers he saw. In response the next session focused on helping the student discern between the percent rate and the monetary values.

In the photo above is the work of the student as review of the previous session. This was followed by highlighting the dollar amounts in green and the percent amount in yellow. It was emphasized that the yellow was not used in the calculation in the bottom row.

This was followed by the task seen in the photo below. The focus is strictly on the one step that was problematic. This was followed by work on IXL.com (2nd photo below) with the student writing in values on the handout shown on the  bottom photo to help the student focus on this tep

percent vs monetary value 2

percent vs monetary value 3

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Assessment for General Curriculum Math Topics

In special education there is a tool called a task analysis. It is a formal approach of identifying the steps taken to demonstrate mastery of a skill. For example, putting on shoes with Velcro straps involves the following steps: get shoes, sit on chair, match shoes with feet (right to right), insert foot into respective shoe etc.

I have applied this approach to general curriculum math topics from counting money to solving using the Quadratic Formula. Below are the iterations of my task analysis for the objective count TENs, a FIVE and ONES (dollar bills) to pay a given price. The first shows a rough draft of notes I took as I actually counted out the money, going through each little step. The second shows the steps written out on a task analysis table I created. The third shows the final, typed version.

paying price with bills task analysis rough draft

paying price with bills task analysis rough draft on table

paying price with bills task analysis final

The table is used for assessment, collection of data and progress monitoring. The steps that are problematic can be targeted individually, e.g. skip counting by 10s.

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Shaping Behavior

Shaping is a term in special ed which basically means to train a student to incrementally follow through on a sequence of substeps to accomplish a task. B.F. Skinner coined a different name for this which he called operant conditioning. The top photo below shows “Skinner’s box.” The pigeon was placed in the box and when it pecked at the metal wall a pellet of food was presented to it. Eventually the reward was given as the pigeon pecked closer and closer to the disk in the wall where its beak is in the photo. Finally, it learned that by pecking this disk was the only means of getting the pellet.

In special education, this shaping is used to train a student to achieve specific outcomes. In the bottom photo below my son Gabriel is playing with his favorite all time toy, Legos. As is the case with many with autism, he would not look at people in the eye. His therapists trained him to make eye contact by first holding his Legos in the air until he requested them. Eventually the Legos were held incrementally closer to the therapist’s eyes. The second to last step was to hold them next to the eyes and finally he had to look into the therapist’s eyes before getting the Legos.

This same approach can be used to train students to attempt problems, think critically, follow classroom norms such as the appropriate steps for starting classs and any other desired behavior.

skinner box

lucas and Legos

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