How can we best explain to a College the need for substitution of College Algebra for a dyscalculic? What are the best arguments, angles, persuasions, or eye-openers to send to them in a request letter?
That's a very good question justfoundout It's a good question because not all dyscalculics struggle with algebra; it's a case by case thing.. I assume that you're talking about your case in this instance. Now, I'm not an expert in the field of College education or class substitution or anything of that sort, but I would venture to say that the best arguments to convince them is to provide them with reasonable alternatives that you know are already effective. I'd also say that you have to show open-mindness, show the willingness to compromise and the will to reach some kind of common ground - You may not get all of that you ask for, but get at least some of what you ask for. It's a good start.
It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer-- Albert Einstein
justfoundout – I have a feeling taking your test results to them along with a copy of your transcripts might be persuasive. If you show them your grades in all your other courses and then your 3 attempts and 3 failures in the algebra course, it might let them twig to there being a slight problem – and combined with the results of your battery of tests, I think maybe –hopefully– a light bulb will go on for ‘them’ that you and algebra just ain’t gonna ever form a happy understanding with each other. At my son’s junior college, they allowed him substitution of the required math course with either a science course or a philosophy course based on his transcript, talking to the profs he’d failed math with, and test-battery results …it was a private/independent college, though.
And, as Toe_Nail points out, be ready to offer ‘them’ some alternative courses/accommodations to their requirement and/or accommodations. (That’s one thing we’re having trouble with, with my ‘math retard’ son at his 4-year univ…the ‘accommodations’ they’ve granted him (calculator, extra time on math tests, etc.) don’t work for him learning the material, but we have no idea what will work. Even though we’ve been in contact with dysc expert after dysc expert after dysc expert for any suggestions on what ‘accommodations’ he can use to help him, absent us being able to suggest any alternative accommodations to what ‘the system’ is ‘offering’ him, he is stuck trying to fly without wings…or an airplane…or even a glider.) m..
Edited by hoobit on June 19 2008 07:39 AM
"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein
I hadn't realized that your son had gone to a junior college before his 4-year college. (If you have already told us this, sorry I missed it.) You mention that his was a private/independent college, and I'm realizing more and more that that can make a night-and-day difference when trying to get personalized help. What course did your son end up choosing to replace math, if I may ask?
Your comments always cheer me up. Yes, I do think that the three-times-failed Elementary Algebra course should give the colleges' heads of department at least a faint inkling that something might be amiss in my relationship with algebra. And here is the real irony,... as hard as I've tried to learn algebra those three times, if I do re-take it and somehow pass on the 4th try (like maybe with a "D" or a "C"), this wouldn't mean that they would give me my diploma, it would only mean that (Whoopie!) I'd get to move on to the NEXT level of Developmental Math (DMAT0093). I would very likely fail at that level also, multiple times, before ever passing. And only then, after passing DMAT0093, would I qualify to enroll in College Algebra. In my case, I can't make the claim that I will never, EVER be able to learn algebra, because, with many times the effort and practice of my classmates, I do eventually begin to retain the process. It's just that the time and tranquility that I need are not available to me now.
So here's the tack that I'm planning to use. Write a letter and offer my copy of the transcript, with the three failed attempts, as my proof of a "good faith effort". Since they will be insisting on my re-taking the course with "accommodations", I'll make the analogy to how they would feel if they already had a professionally diagnosed disability, how many times would they be willing to 'crumple in a heap' before observers, in an effort to prove to them that they really do have a disability?
I'm glad you mentioned the science courses. The dean had only said that I'd be able to take Philosophy to replace math. I like logic, but I'm not interested in studying 'belief systems'. Geology and Biology are facinating. I make jewelry, so geology goes with that (for the pretty stones). Maybe I can make the argument that allowing me to take geology instead of philosophy can help me make a living -- which is true.
Edited by justfoundout on June 19 2008 12:21 PM
In any letter, discussion, conversation, etc. with ‘them’ about substitutions and/or accommodations you might need in the academic setting, I think it wouldn’t hurt to include:
1. acknowledgement that you appreciate –greatly– all the help they are giving you; especially when you know how busy they are, how difficult their job is and how good they are at it, yada, yada, yada (hey, sometimes a little white lie goes a long way…and flattery works wonders);
2. a statement that you understand and appreciate ‘they’ have academic standards to uphold;
3. a ‘compromise’ course that would meet the learning objective of the required course, but would meet it in a ‘different’ manner. I would be specific in showing how the ‘compromise’ course would meet objectives/desired learning outcome of the required course. (e.g., if the end learning objective of the requirement is for the student to be able to get their message across to a room-full of people, you might be able to show that taking a course in video production could equally meet that objective as would a public speaking course…if you can video yourself making a speech and can show that video to a room-full of people, it would have the same result as your standing up in person to give the same well-thought out and well-articulated message. By taking the video production course, you would be able to show what you can do (get your message across – the end objective of the public speaking course) rather than what you can’t do (address in person a bunch of people.);
4. a brief statement about what dyscalculia is…phrased in such a way as to make ‘them’ think they, too, understand…and are on your ‘side’ because of that understanding. (i.e., something along the lines of: “The in-depth study of dyscalculia (specifically) is relatively new; its causation and remediation is, therefore, still not yet fully understood. That being the case, each individual with a diagnosis of “dyscalculia” (a learning disorder in mathematics) is, as yet, lumped together with others having the same generalized diagnosis. As you know, dyscalculia is a disability affecting the way an individual processes math and math-related operations; as you also know, there are many factors contributing to the over-all, specific disability—each individual with dyscalculia has academic strengths (often great) along with their dyscalculia. Ongoing studies by experts in the field of the disability hope to tease out the best way(s) to remediate for that individual.”);
5. see items 1 and 2 (above);
6. rinse and repeat as necessary.
Anyway, just thought I’d toss out some things that I think need to be included. (It’s amazing what item #1 can accomplish…there is one person I deal with on LD issues who has got to be the most immovable and densest object around…stroke his ego, though, and he’ll bend over backwards to see what he can do to help. I’ve become a brown-noser extraordinaire with him...every single time I speak with him, I lay it on as thick as I can - he just laps it up...it’s embarrassing how eager he is for the effusive praise.) m. "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein
Hoobit, you're shameless! (And, I'm sure that you're taking this as a compliment. ha) Thanks so much for the great ideas. I hadn't thought about actually 'educating' them on dyscalculia. But, definitely, my biggest hurdle is not wanting to repeat DMAT0091 for the 4th time, versus 'their' enthusiasm for trying it one more time "WITH the accommodations".
Even taking Philosophy doesn't sound too bad, compared to taking the math course again. When I'm in math class, I feel exactly the same as Shadowfax. I feel like it's wasting my time and my life. I have to sit there and give respectful attention, look interested, turn to the right page in the book, answer whatever question I know the answer to (like "What is the rule for this?" I see it in the book and I raise my hand.) And it's wasted my whole Saturday morning,... I should have mowed the grass so the city won't send me a 'violation'.
Another 'argument' has occurred to me in the last couple of days. (Reading what you've written awakens and jogs some very functional parts of my brain.)
(1) Let's think this through,... learning math is EMPIRICAL. If we don't learn the functions and the symbols at the lowest level, we can't work those problems. We can't skip a level. We have to thoroughly understand one level before moving on to another, otherwise we won't get the right answers and nothing will make sense.
(2) Now, let's compare this to dyslexia. To read, we need to know ALL the letters, and MOST of the sound combinations (English is more complex to pronounce that many other languages.) Then, once these are learned, GIVEN ENOUGH TIME, a person with dyslexia may be able to figure out what's written on the page in front of him. If he can't, he can probably understand that material if someone READS IT TO HIM. Then he can answer the questions, either in writing (slowly) or orally.
Now let's compare (1) with (2). If the math student is given more time than normal to work math problems for which he lacks the empirical knowledge, will this allow him to work them? By definition of how math operates, no, he can not. (He will just sit there longer looking at the problem.) He is missing the empirical knowledge necessary to the completion of the task. If the dyslexic student is given more time than normal to read or listen to new and unrehearsed information, reason on it, and answer the question, will this allow him to arrive at a correct answer? Yes, there is a very good probability that he will be able to do this, because the human brain is wired to reason, even without formal, empirical knowledge. (Deaf people can reason WITHOUT words and without formal training.) If the dyslexic person can understand the question, he has a good chance of answering it, even if he only attended class one day,... as long as that happened to be the day that he heard the answer to the question.
I just wanted to write this while I was thinking of it, because we are always writing about how colleges offer "accommodations", not realizing that their "accommodations" aren't effective for dyscalculia the same as they are for dyslexia. And I'm sure a lot more could be added to what I've said.