On Long Division and Unexpected Vindication

Robert’s teacher from his summer program, Mrs. B ,  did not realize what effect her words had on me when during our first phone conversation she stated that Robert’s math skills were  quite  good  and that he performed long division tasks very well.

I was stunned.  I needed to catch my breath and find appropriate words to answer.  The only thing that came to mind was to ask how Robert writes a reminder – as a whole number after letter R, or as a fraction.

Mrs. B. said, “Fraction.”

I caught my breath and we continued the conversation.

I was not surprised that Robert could do long division with only occasional errors.  He practiced that skill diligently for many  months.  We used Delta Section of  Math U See practice books  and I made many worksheets to help Robert place a dividend between two multiples of the divisor. I wrote about it in What About Reminder

What stunned me was the fact that Robert’s teacher noticed his skills and shared her positive observation with me. The teacher acted as if she found the ability to divide important.

For reasons I cannot understand or explain, my son’s educators from his regular program seemed  oblivious to those of Robert’s academic skills that were above the limits they placed on his abilities.  They neither could accept them, nor negate them, so they undermined their usefulness.   To do so, they used the concept of “functional skills”. For Robert, division was not a functional skill. Reading maps, learning calendar, understanding stories weren’t functional either.  Not for him.  He was too low functioning to be overburdened with such demands. Not once during IEP meetings, I was asked, “Why to waste time on teaching this advanced skill if he doesn’t have that basic skill?”  In many of the posts on this blog I dealt exactly with this question. For instance: “Why are you teaching him that? ”

I was always on defensive.   I defended my son’s right to know whatever he was capable of learning.

For my son’s regular school “Transition to adulthood”  meant that only functional academics should be taught. Since for school nothing Robert was learning with me at home was functional then nothing had  any value.

I got so used to that reaction  that when  Mrs. B  instead of asking, “Why did you teach Robert long division ?” expressed  appreciation of his math  skills, I felt stunned but then relieved and  unexpectedly… vindicated.

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