Project Math Access

# Teaching Mathematical Concepts

## Number Sense

It is believed by neuropsychologists that humans are born with “number sense”, or an innate ability to perceive, process, and manipulate numbers. It is an intuitive ability to attach meaning to numbers and number relationships, to understand the magnitude of numbers as well as the relativity of measurement of numbers, and to use logical reasoning for estimation.

While some ability to understand numbers may be intuitive, this ability is also one which uses many visual referents. The sighted child is able to compare groups of objects and immediately analyze differences and likenesses in amount, size, and other characteristics. A child who is blind must explore the same groups in parts, and often only after his or her attention is directed to the task, before being able to draw conclusions about similarities and differences. There are many incidental opportunities for the young sighted child to use this number sense in their daily life; a child who is blind needs to be directed to, and guided through, these opportunities for exploring, comparing, ordering and problem-solving in the real world to allow for a natural development of number sense. Such opportunities will also cultivate a positive attitude toward mathematics and facilitate the child’s achievement and confidence. Following are some suggestions:

• Encourage children to explore groups of objects which can be perceived with one or two hands (e.g., coins, candy, legos, beads, buttons, pretzels, Cheerios) to compare the relative size of groups of things.
• Provide extensive opportunities to match number of objects to number of fingers.
• Talk about numbers: how many, how many more or less, how many more are needed.
• Assign number names to groups of objects which are dissimilar in size or shape, for experience with the concept of quantity and comparison of quantity.

These are only a few of the myriad of possibilities which exist which can be used to enhance the “number sense” in young children who are blind.