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An Analysis of Difficulties Experienced by the Children with Hearing Impairment while Doing Mathematics

Principal Investigator: Dr. I. P. Gowramma
Project Assistant: Anantha Padmanabha H M

Funded by AIISH Research Fund, AIISH, Mysore

Year: 2004-05


Mathematics is vital for educational development. Many students find it difficult to cope up with mathematics in the classroom. But the future demands of a vocational set up and comfortable living expects competence in the skills of problem solving and logical reasoning. Moreover, today’s society is technologically oriented and information rich. Children need to develop mathematical skills to build up the confidence and competence which are vital for effective participation in society. Therefore, there is a need to provide all the students with equal opportunities to learn mathematics irrespective of their difficulties and disabilities. This places responsibility on teachers to provide similar learning environments for student populations that differ in learning ability, culture, race, gender and socio-economic background.

For all children, understanding of mathematical concepts requires considerable experience. Haynes (1999) states “Concepts should be taught in such a way that children develop the ability to think mathematically and new experiences should allow them to refine their existing knowledge and ideas in constructing new knowledge”. It is also observed that mathematical processes such as problem solving, developing logic and reasoning and communicating mathematical ideas depend upon children having good communication skills. Review of literature between 1980 and 2000 indicates that Children With Hearing Impairment (CWHI) lag behind their hearing peers in mathematics achievement tests. (Swanwick, Oddy and Roper, 2005). Quantitative skills, which are considered basic concepts, are an important aspect of language development. In addition to basic language, number and patterns, sequencing and specialized vocabulary are specific to math, which are essential to learn math concepts in school. Children with hearing impairment deficient in all the above areas find learning of mathematics a difficult task. It is a well-known fact that the so-called normal children also face difficulty to learn the concept as well as the skill of performing mathematical operations. Flexer (1999) suggests that hearing impairment, whether slight or profound in nature, if unmanaged, can have a negative impact on the development of not only spoken language but also academic competencies.

Inclusive education being a compulsory policy, children with hearing impairment are exposed to the same instructional strategies used for normal children and the time given to them to learn a concept is the same as that of their counterparts with normal hearing. Can this be justified? Without authentic experience and vocabulary development, children with hearing impairment find it hard to master the concepts of mathematics as well as the skills to perform the operations. For students to learn and act on knowledge of mathematics, they must understand terms regarding amount or direction (i.e., language-based knowledge), understand that numbers stand for a quantity, hold multiple pieces of mathematical information in memory and perform mathematical operations (e.g., add, multiply) on them, and know that numbers can be manipulated in meaningful ways.

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An Analysis of Difficulties Experienced by the Children with Hearing Impairment while Doing Mathematics