TouchMath is Based on Sound Research

Dr. Beth McCulloch Vinson's many academic and professional achievements suggest someone who was good at math as a child. But in fact, Dr. Vinson once struggled with math. Perhaps facing and overcoming this common dread instilled uncommon passion in an educator on a mission.

She holds a bachelors and a masters degree in Elementary Education from the University of North Alabama, and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Alabama. Her Spanish skills served her well in Lima, Peru; and Bogota, Colombia, where she taught graduate-level courses.

Dr. Vinson has experience teaching third-grade, as well as K-6 enrichment classes in art, music and Spanish. She's also an associate professor of education at Athens State University.

And she knows math. Dr. Vinson was on the board of the Alabama Journal of Mathematics, was an editorial panel reviewer for the NCTM Journal of Mathematics, and was vice president of the North Alabama Council of Teachers of Mathematics. She is the author of Mathematics in the Preschool and Primary Grades.

The following interview illustrates Dr. Vinson's ability to help new educators overcome math-learning obstacles, both personally and professionally.

ILC: Dr. Vinson, why did you choose mathematics education?

Vinson: Mathematics provides the most joy and challenge to me for two reasons. First, as a child I learned math on the symbolic level, so I struggled with it. I found ways to understand and simplify the concepts for myself. I want to make that easier for new teachers. Second, many of my undergraduate students come to me with math anxiety. The challenge is to help them overcome that anxiety while showing them how to teach math to others. The jewel of my course is when they realize that they've learned math while learning to teach it.

ILC: Why do you think teachers should include TouchMath in their curriculum?

Vinson: TouchMath is based on sound research. Jean Piaget and Jerome Bruner both suggested that learning follows a predicted set of stages.

ILC: What other features do you appreciate about TouchMath?

Vinson: Especially in mathematics, effective instruction comes from appropriate portrayal of the concept, modeling, guided practice and plenty of independent practice. It all begins at a certain point, and then progresses toward more complex skills and concepts. TouchMath's sequential learning strategy provides a sense of numeration and then progresses to addition and subtraction. From the student's perspective, one of the benefits of TouchMath is that activity pages don't have extraneous images or symbols. Many children have problems focusing. TouchMath helps them focus on the numerals by providing a pictorial representation of how many (number) as well as the symbol (numeral).

ILC: How can TouchMath go beyond the limitations of traditional math curricula?

Vinson: In order for most of us to do well in mathematics, we have to understand it. We can't simply continue to memorize routines, rules, and procedures, without becoming overwhelmed. It's natural to be curious and to wonder, "Why?" Many people believe math is only for the select few. In reality, mathematics can and should be one of the most understood subjects.

Teachers can present math in a concrete, hands-on way. Students can't see many abstract concepts such as freedom (social studies) or ionization (science). But they can see mathematics on their desktops when they use manipulatives and symbolic strategies like TouchMath.

ILC: What final thoughts would you like to share with other educators about TouchMath?

Vinson: TouchMath is the best method available for making mathematical symbols more understandable. It bridges the gap from the concrete and pictorial levels to the symbolic.

To take full advantage of this program, I believe teachers need more support in the areas of classroom instructional money (to purchase well-founded programs such as TouchMath) and time away from the classroom to receive practical, hands-on professional development.

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