According to the little bit of information I’ve been able to find about how children with Fragile X learn holistically, starting from the whole and moving backwards, instead of the sequential learning style where each tasks builds on the prior task which is how the majority of education in the United States is structured. Almost all of the information I was able to find about fragile x learning styles is courtesy of the National Fragile X Foundation (www.fragilex.org) and this article which I think is also housed somewhere on the FragileX.org website, but which google found from the children’s hospital of pittsburgh website first. Of course once I learned about the need for a different approach to learning I of course started looking up some of the resources mentioned in the article by Dr. Braden. Imagine my surprise when I look up touch math and I am instantly transported back to the middle of my first grade year. So now I’m going to take you on a brief history tour of my own educational experience.
I hate math. I’m bad at it, it’s hard for me, and as someone who is usually good at every single solitary other academic subject it’s hard for me, psychologically, to be bad at this one. In fact the only math I was ever very good at was geometry and the early stages of algebra…..honestly I used to joke it’s because Algebra uses a lot of letters and I felt like I was back in home territory escaping the stupid evil numbers.
My elementary math experience was almost as a whole torturous. Addition and subtraction weren’t terrible due to the system mentioned below but multiplication and division were a nightmare. You’re going to laugh at me when I complain about coming home with B-‘s and C+’s in the subject, but for a child who had A+’s (sometimes with extra +’s) in everything else, that B- was pretty tough to swallow. Perfectionist? Yep, I’m guilty.
Anyhow, the singular exception to my math torture was a brief interlude in the first grade. I spent all but the first and last week of first grade in an elementary school in Rogers, Arkansas.
This particular elementary school taught a quirky form of math where all of the students had a number board taped to the top of their desks and each of the numbers had “touch points” illustrating the value of the number. I’ve included a picture of the board below, but the ones we had did not have the dots labelled, the extra circles on 6-9 were more obvious and I don’t remember them being in different colors. Basically it’s a really fancy way of counting on your fingers without using your fingers. The thing is, it’s a highly visual way to do math, and it really connected with my brain.
To this day if you look at a column of figures I’ve been forced to add manually you will see little specks around some of the numbers where I’ve automatically counted using the touch points. I honestly believe that if it hadn’t been for learning this in the first grade my math grades would have been substantially worse. I really wish I had learned whatever tricks the system teaches for multiplication and division. But anyhow, I never saw the system again and every single other person I’ve ever told about it (usually somebody who’s noticed the little specks around my numbers or who’s seen me adding) claims to have never heard of it. So as I said, imagine my surprise when one of the methods of teaching being touted as potentially effective for the fragile x learning style is this quirky little math teaching style that I had so connected with back in the first grade. Elijah is a ways away from math skills but I’m looking forward to seeing if this sparks the same connections in his brain as it did in mine.