Faculty, Advisor Create Tactile Math Course for Blind Student

A Notre Dame College mathematics faculty member and an instructional advisor have teamed up to teach a visually impaired student math via tangible tools.

Because math symbols and geometric diagrams cannot be translated into basic braille, Notre Dame student Kimberly Krozser ’16, who is blind, was at a disadvantage.

So Sr. Jeanne Moenk, SND, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematics, and Barb Kooser, instructional advisor in the College’s Academic Support Center for Students with Learning Differences, utilized tactile devices—including fabrics, models and malleable sticks—to teach Krozser.

Moenk and Kooser met two days a week with Krozser, one-on-one, to demonstrate to the visually impaired student geometric concepts with wooden models, correlations through the length of violin string and pitch change and angles with cue sticks and pool balls.

Krozser also learned relational math by making patterns with quilting squares of different material textures, shapes and sizes.

And Moenk taught Kimberly to configure and interpret calculations, theories and diagrams using math symbols and structures fashioned from Wikki Stix, or flexible wax-covered pieces of yarn.

"Once she could feel how the quilting squares or the sticks worked together, she could form them into answers herself," Moenk said.

The innovative summer independent study allowed Krozser to earn the liberal arts math credits the College requires beyond basic general education courses. The curriculum Moenk used with Krozser was framed in issues throughout history that caused early civilizations to create mathematics.

In addition to learning equations and concepts with the tangible tools, Moenk also taught Krozser about the Egyptians, Babylonians, Chinese and Greeks, among others, who developed math applications for issues ranging from agriculture and trade to religion and construction.

"Kimberly is an English major and a poet, not a math major. So there was no value in teaching her the more complicated technology for the visually impaired that goes beyond basic braille," Moenk said.

Now Moenk and Kooser are planning to write a scholarly article about the adaptive class for publication. Kooser recently presented on the independent study at the fall conference for the Cleveland Regional Council of Science Teachers.

"Working with Kimberly was unique, but that is what we do in the Academic Support Center," Kooser said. "We take each student and do what we can to help them wherever they are, whatever their needs. For Kimberly it was finding ways to make figures and concepts visual through touch, for students with dyslexia it is helping them get materials in audio format and for students with ADHD it may be working with them on a white board where they can move around while they learn the concepts from class."

This is the second time Moenk formatted a class to help a student with a learning difference meet the liberal arts requirement for math. Previously she adapted a math history course for an undergraduate with dyscalculia.

The student completed the basic math classes required at the College but struggled with more complex equations, according to Moenk.

"He was a computer science major, so I knew he could follow logic. He just struggled with the calculations, so I created a liberal arts math history self-directed study for him," Moenk said.

And Moenk said she doesn’t mind but rather enjoys the extra time and energy she has spent working with students with learning differences at the College.

"It is just wonderful," Moenk said. "Students need to learn, and we are here to teach them—whatever it takes."


May 20
11:30 AM
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