Supporting Students with Learning Disabilities in Mathematics

Area(s) of Focus: technology
Level(s): Grade 7, Grade 8, Grade 9, Grade 10

Deepen our understanding of the profile of students with learning disabilities through a mathematics lens.

Upon examination of our Grade 7 to 12 data, we had noted that approximately 18 per cent of our student population has a learning disability identification.  Although we know that these students have average to above-average intelligence, they are not achieving at the same level as other students on EQAO, board-wide Grade 7 and 8 mathematics assessments, and in course achievement (please see attached data and our School Improvement Plan Theory of Action). As the achievement of our students with learning disabilities in mathematics is our most urgent student need, we are seeking funding to maximize opportunities to support these students in achieving to their fullest potential. Last year, we were able to initiate contact with Connie Quadrini, Ministry Provincial Math Lead. Connie has extensive experience in working with learning disabled students in mathematics, and we hope to have her support to move forward with our work in this area. This past summer, a number of teachers from our school participated in a Ministry Adobe Connect Professional Learning Series on Supporting Students with Learning Disabilities in Mathematics. We wanted to share this learning with others and further our own professional development in order to reach every student in our school.

Team Members

  • Jennifer Gordon

    Algoma District School Board

  • Deb Robinson [removed from this team]

    Algoma District School Board

  • Chris Wootton

    Algoma District School Board

  • Charlie Cooke

    Algoma District School Board

Professional Learning Goals

  • deepen our understanding of the profile of students with learning disabilities through a mathematics lens
  • determine the impact of the four cognitive processes (verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, working memory, processing speed) and executive functioning on learning, instruction and professional leadership
  • empower students to use technology to support learning in the mathematics classroom
  • build our mathematical knowledge for teaching in order to improve both teacher and student efficacy, as well as student achievement
  • identify and implement appropriate accommodations for students with learning disabilities in mathematics which leverage strengths and respond to individual student needs
  • implement the Seven Core Beliefs of Learning for All (see Ministry document, page 7)

Activities and Resources

  • Through the work of our Professional Learning Community, teachers will engage in Collaborative Inquiry to test our theory of action as outlined in our School Improvement Plan for Student Achievement.
  • Our team will unpack the IEPs of students with learning disabilities to create student profiles which outline learner strengths, needs and strategies to support each individual student in mathematics.
  • Our team will work with Special Education Consultant, Marilu Horton, and Provincial Math Lead, Connie Quadrini, to help us achieve the above learning goals.
  • Team members will create an “Instructional Smart Card” for teachers which will define the term “Learning Disability,” describe the four cognitive processes and distinguish between appropriate accommodations as opposed to modifications.
  • Teachers will engage in job-embedded professional learning to deepen our knowledge for teaching through a focus on the Big Ideas in mathematics.
  • Teachers will engage in co-planning, co-teaching and co-debriefing of mathematics lessons which will leverage strengths and respond to the needs of students with learning disabilities. This process will also involve collaborative analysis of student learning to determine mathematical thinking, insights related to strengths and needs, and instructional next steps.
  • Our team will also build the power of “co-” by engaging student voice and encouraging students to be advocates for their own learning. Students will be involved in the creation of their learner profiles and will set learning goals and action plans for success in mathematics.
  • We will build teacher capacity to use technology to support students with learning disabilities.
  • access to 40 iPads
  • “BYOD” – bring your own device
  • board support for Connie Quadrini, Provincial Math Lead, and Marilu Horton, Special Education Consultant
  • designated time for Professional Learning Communities
  • support from Program Team members
  • From Patterns to Algebra, resource by Cathy Bruce and Ruth Beatty

Unexpected Challenges

Approval of Learning Disabilities Smart Card and use in school and board

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

By building our mathematical knowledge for teaching, both teacher and student efficacy will increase, leading to gains in student achievement. Strategies and accommodations for our learning disabled students will leverage student strengths, while supporting learner needs. We also recognize that while focus of our inquiry is on students presenting with learning disabilities, all students will benefit from the instructional strategies that will be implemented by our team of teachers. We know that our learning disabled students will be provided with the tools and accommodations they need to be successful in their mathematical learning, and these skills will be applied to all areas of the curriculum.


  • Our “students as researchers” will present our findings to staff.
  • Supporting students with learning disabilities is a priority of our Senior Administration and opportunities will be provided to share our learning at a system level. This will support the development of leadership skills of all team members.
  • A copy of our Instructional Smart Card on Learning Disabilities will be shared with Senior Administration for board use.


Project Evaluation

  • “Students as researchers” completed research and provided a thorough report which included qualitative and quantitative data to drive next steps.
  • Team met formally and informally – all intermediate math teachers participated in project and observed, reflected on students with learning disabilities in mathematical context.
  • Student achievement data for our learning disabled students in class assessments showed improvement.
  • Teachers reported increased use of iPads for helping students with learning disabilities to access material and demonstrate their learning.

Resources Used

Baldree, N. et al. ETFO Special Education Handbook: A Practical Guide for All Teachers. Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario.

College Committee on Disability Issues (July 2008). LD Resource Guide: Accommodations, Learning Strategies, Assistive Technology and Universal Design for Instruction. from

LD @ School from

Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario from

Ontario Ministry of Education (2010). Growing Success: Assessment, Evaluation and Reporting in Ontario Schools. Queen’s Printer for Ontario.

Ontario Ministry of Education (2004). The Individual Education Plan (IEP): Resource Guide. Queen’s Printer for Ontario.

Ontario Ministry of Education (2013). Learning for All: A Guide to Effective Assessment and Instruction for All Students, Kindergarten to Grade 12. Queen’s Printer for Ontario.


Resources Created

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