Build Confidence

Teaching aspiring educators today means exposing them to tools designed to get fast, confidence-building results.

The following interview with Mary Todd Allen, a special education instructor at Winston-Salem State University, discusses her work with young teachers and her experiences as a high school teacher. A former adjunct professor at Wake Forest University, and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Mary has also worked with the Virginia and U.S. Departments of Education.

Mary is a graduate of Radford University with an emphasis in Special Education, and holds a master's degree in Education from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She has been employed in the field of education since 1982.

ILC: Why did you bring TouchMath into your high school classroom?

Todd Allen: The concept made sense for so many of my special high school students. They were unable to remember basic facts, so they counted on their fingers - trying to add large numbers. With TouchMath, they could use a proven touching/counting method. It was so much easier and more effective. They made fewer errors and quickly became proficient.

ILC: Why do you teach TouchMath to future teachers?

Todd Allen: There are two reasons. At Virginia Tech, where I coordinated a school-to-work transition program, I kept running into a major barrier: teachers found that their students were unable to handle basic math facts and therefore could not work successfully at jobs that required them to do quick addition and subtraction. TouchMath was the answer.

Furthermore, in 1997, I had an opportunity at Winston-Salem State University to teach a class called Math for Students with Learning Disabilities. I realized that student teachers needed strategies they could use right away in the classroom. They needed a way to build confidence as instructors and help children at the same time; something easy to learn. TouchMath is a phenomenal discovery for tactile/kinesthetic learners. It's also a great confidence-builder for new teachers.

ILC: What specific features do you like about the program?

Todd Allen: TouchMath is based on research and on what we know about how children learn in a variety of ways. It has also stood the test of time.

ILC: What advice do you have for aspiring teachers?

Todd Allen: I have a strong belief that all children can learn ... but not in the same way. I encourage student teachers to find out how each of their children learn and then use the tools that work.

Abraham Maslow reportedly observed that if every problem looks like a nail, the only tool you'll have is a hammer. I encourage new teachers to fill their toolboxes and to add at least one new tool every year they're in this profession. TouchMath is a tool they can incorporate into their teaching repertoire easily and inexpensively. They will see immediate success with students struggling to master basic facts.

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