Ch. 20 Math Instruction: Students with Significant Intellectual Disabilities

B (East Carolina University) and Jimenez


Within this Module Addressing Special Education and Teacher Education (MAST) you will watch videos, read, and access links on related topics. Links to related topics will also be available in this eBook in an attempt to keep resources current, accessible and expand on the topic and resources. This e-book chapter will include links to each section of the MAST module, for your convenience.

Terms of Use

All of the materials on the MAST website were developed with OSEP funding are freely available to the public and may be used for any purpose as long as the credit is given to the MAST project by citing below images or text: Courtesy of the MAST Project, East Carolina University.

Jimenez, B. (2011). Students with significant intellectual difficulties: Math education. Modules Addressing Special Education and Teacher Education (MAST). Greenville, NC: East Carolina University. Available from

Getting Started

The compass rose on the MAST website opening page and navigation sidebar, will point to where you are in the journey through the module – Anchors Aweigh (Introduction), Set the Course (Background), Plan of the Day (Content), and Drop Anchor (Summary and Feedback). The module concludes with a self-evaluation, which provides immediate feedback through links to the content.

  • Anchors Aweigh: Introduction: The problem and Goals and Objectives
  • Set the Course: Background: Research, Grade Aligned Math Instruction
  • Plan the Day: Content: Story Based Problems, Graphic Organizers, and Task Analysis
  • Drop Anchor: Summary and Assessment

Module Goal

The goal of this module is to become familiar with the Common Core State Standards in Math and to generate an outline for math lessons based on a three-part strategy to access grade level standards (K-12) for students with significant intellectual disabilities. The module will discuss building early numeracy skills, what grade aligned alternate math achievement may look like, a three-part planning process for math instruction, and how academic math standards can be applied in everyday life.

Module Objectives

The participant will be able to:

  1. Apply alignment criteria to determine well-aligned math instruction to state standards.
  2. Identify the 5 content standards of math.
  3. Select a story-based math problem (SBMP).
  4. Select a graphic organizer to use to solve the SBMP.
  5. Identify a task analysis to meet a math standard objective.
  6. Identify a 3 step planning strategy to generate grade-aligned math instruction.
  7. Select applications to classroom contexts (i.e., given scenarios) to increase grade-level aligned math instruction for students with significant intellectual disabilities.

Getting Started

You will work your way through each section and take the assessment at the end of the module.

Come back to this chapter in your course eBook for supplementary links to math resources and links to each main section of the MAST module

When you finish each “page” of the module, go to the navigation bar on the left side of the screen and click on the next section

In section one, you will be introduced to the Problem scenario, a case study student “La Tia”, a fifth-grade student with a significant intellectual disability.

In section two, Set the Course: Reviews the research on teaching students with significant disabilities mathematics and how to grade-align instruction for these students. The grade-aligning process is similar to the backward design process of identifying “enduring understandings” or “big ideas”. What is an appropriate entry point for the student within the grade level curriculum?

When you are ready, proceed to section three, Plan the Day: Content. In this section, you will look at three methods of designing mathematics instruction for students with significant intellectual disability. Watch the videos in the section that show actual teaching segments that illustrate these teaching methods.

  1. Story-based problems
  2. Graphic organizers
  3. Task Analysis

The last section of the module is the Summary and Assessment

Note: The quality of some of the module slideshows are of poor quality. You can access the same content of the slides in the Facilitator’s Resources: facilitator’s guide, PDF and PPT.

Module Summary

“Math instruction for students with significant intellectual disabilities should include instruction that is grade-aligned to math standards in the area of algebra, geometry, data analysis, numbers and operations, and measurement. Additionally, instruction must also match students� current skill set and build upon early numeracy skills and concepts over time. Explicit instruction in math skill and concept building, and the use of a story-based math approach can provide students a personally relevant context to learn math.

Graphic organizers also provide students a means to organize facts in math and can be used across all grade-levels to teach a wide-variety of math skills. Finally, the use of systematic instruction, specifically a task-analysis, can be used to break-down the steps of the math problem, allowing students to gain mastery of each step in order to become more independent.”  (Jimenez, 2011)

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