Open Mind School

How might we help students with special needs learn real-world math?


All students at OMS study Common Core math, which includes text-heavy real world math problems. These problems have many components which need to be communicated, solved, and synthesized.

As a team, we wondered-- How might we enable OMS students to independently break down math problems while accessing prior learning and seeing the big picture?

What did I do?

Students at Open Mind School are neurodiverse learners with unique learning and communication modalities. These students often need facilitators to relay their thoughts.

Theory of Change


Solution Prototypes

Prototype 1 is a highly differentiable software package designed for touch screen devices. The program supports students in conceptualizing each portion of a word problem, providing visual, auditory, and text-based representations of each component. Students choose the best representation of each subproblem, and the software uses these choices to inform the building of a visual and auditory problem that synthesizes the components of the big picture problem.


Prototype 2 is a series of miniature double-sided cards that allow students and instructors to co-construct representations for each portion of a real-world math problem. Students and instructors work through an initial problem, visually documenting each step within the solution process on its own card. After the initial problem is solved, students have a model of each step, both in name and visual representation, that work individually to provide scaffolding supports and that work in series to help students synthesize big picture ideas.


When tested by OMS students, both prototypes present exciting possibilities for realizing the shared vision of independent, real world math learning.

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