Multisensory Math/Mobile Campus Program

At Trident Academy, although the curriculum for reading, spelling, and reading comprehension has been the focal point of our specialized Orton-Gillngham program over the last several years, the math curriculum has not been designed and structured as sequentially for the maximum benefit of our students. Significant research has yielded new information on the most effective methods for teaching mathematics to children with learning differences. The Atlantic Seaboard Dyslexia Education Center (ASDEC) now employs Orton-Gillingham as the basis of its approach to training teachers and others in multisensory mathematics. One of their instructors, Marilyn Zecher, has been working with several of our faculty this Fall to help revitalize the math curriculum from a multi-sensory approach.

Marilyn Zecher

Marilyn Zecher

Based on the Orton-Gillingham philosophy of teaching, Multisensory Mathematics applies the research-based Concrete-Representation-Abstract (CRA) approach to teaching mathematics as advocated by the National Math Panel and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). Participants learn to apply this methodology in guiding students from foundation skills and numeracy to place value, operations, fractions and decimals. Participants learn to use math manipulatives effectively to reinforce concepts, aid memory, and enhance performance for all students. Strategies for helping students learn and retrieve math facts are stressed as well as structured procedures for computational accuracy.

In mathematics, a manipulative is an object which is designed so that a learner can perceive some mathematical concept by manipulating it, hence its name. The use of manipulatives provides a way for students to learn concepts in a developmentally appropriate, hands-on, and an experiencing way. Students will connect their manipulative experiences to essential abstract mathematics. Manipulatives not only allow students to construct their own cognitive models for abstract mathematical ideas and processes, they also provide a common language with which to communicate these models to the teacher and other students.

math manipulatives for learning differences

Example of Multisensory Math Manipulatives

In commenting on the training she has received thus far, Primary Grades faculty member Barbara Waterstradt states that, “One of the things that I am implementing from the MSM class is the order of teaching. All new concepts are introduced at the concrete level and move to the representation level when the students are ready. When they do not need any manipulatives or representations, they are ready for the abstract level which is simply number sentences. I was often skipping the representational level and have discovered that the children really need that step to ensure learning of the concept.”

Part of the multisensory approach includes utilizing outdoor classroom space and incorporating campus gardens in our math and science classes. By engaging the senses of touch, smell, hearing, tasting, and seeing, students retain a strong physical memory of activities that are lasting and synergistic. With this in mind, laptops have already been purchased for faculty and tablets are being evaluated for purchase for student use. Additionally, Open Mesh routers for wireless connectivity are also being installed across the campus to expand opportunities to utilize outdoor space and facilitate a mobile campus.

To help support and measure our re-developed math curriculum, we have incorporated specialized assistive technology as a component of our program. Academy of MATH is research-based assistive technology (a web-based intervention tool for math) that can be used for instruction assessment and progress monitoring. In this program, component skills of mathematics have been broken down, with students introduced to skills along a development sequence that systematically builds math knowledge. The program includes over 14,000 questions, correlated to NCTM standards and Common Core State Standards.

Concepts first taught with the multisensory approach and using manipulatives can then be tested to see if the student has mastered the skill, making the leap from concrete to representational to abstract. Students are given positive and corrective feedback throughout the program including messages of congratulations, awards, and certificates when they are successful. This keeps the students engaged and gives them confidence to tackle more difficult skill areas. Teachers will be able to analyze the data the program provides and offer differentiated instruction to students who need their help the most.

Funding for faculty training for the initial phase of this program ($10,000) has been generously provided by a current Trident Academy family. In addition, the Toshiba America Foundation has awarded our school a $1000 grant for purchasing math manipulatives and the Plum Creek Foundation has provided $2500 to purchase the wireless routers. Other grants have also been submitted to help defray the cost of laptop and tablet purchases.

For more information on this program, please contact Head of School, Betsy Fanning ( If you would like to help fund the cost of the program, please contact Director of Advancement, Joy Simpson (

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