What are the Functional Math & Number Sense IEP goals? Strategies to achieve these

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Educators emphasize having individualized education programs or IEPs to make education effective for students with different learning disabilities. IEP goals are an important aspect of special education programs. These are set for students with specific learning needs. The IEP goals are determined to set a learning aim for an academic year. This means the student must have attained a set level of proficiency or have met the IEP goals by the end of the year.

Why IEP goals for learning functional math skills and number sense?

Education must make a child confident in doing things of daily affairs. While language learning contributes to communication efficiency, learning math eases important tasks like shopping, budgeting, catching a bus, taking a shot while playing tennis, etc. All these skills are classified as functional math skills.

It is worth understanding that functional math skills become easy to attain when you have a developed sense of numbers. As we know, number sense is the sense of quantity or value that every number carries; the functional math skills, understandably, are the natural outcome of a strong number sense.

Also, learning difficulties or disorders like dyscalculia interfere with the grasping pace of these skills. Therefore, IEP goals about number sense and functional math skills are set to ensure that the child has attained the age-appropriate threshold of knowledge level expected at his level of study.

Let’s understand what the ideal functional math and number sense IEP goals are.

What are functional math IEP goals?

Functional math IEP goals are decided based on the need for a child’s skills-learning needs. For example, money skills are an important part of functional math intelligence. The IEP goals of money skills include

  • identification of currency notes or coins,
  • know how to count money or other items
  • adding and subtracting amount to be transacted,
  • set a budget,
  • compare prices,
  • compare the percentage difference
  • know profit or loss
  • pay the bill, etc.

Functional math skills also include reasoning skills apart from calculation abilities. Thus, where to place the self to catch the ball coming, how far 100 steps can take us, understanding height and width to select appropriately sized T-shirts, etc., are reasoning abilities. IEP goals to impart this knowledge to children are:

  • Compare between low and high, fast and slow
  • Differentiate big from small
  • Know how to sort according to number, size, or other measurement option
  • Know between far and near, etc.
  • Time-based learning of quick and slow, making time table, planning activities in the given time
  • Application of geometry in real life
  • Application of algebra in real life
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If we observe closely, a considerable extent of functional math IEP goals’ attainment is dependent on a child’s efficiency with number sense. So, functional math goals can be considered as goals of acquiring advanced number sense.

What are number sense IEP goals?

Number sense is said to be prominent in children when they can assess the quantum or value of things denoted by any number. For example, it is the number sense by which a child knows he has more chocolates with him when he has 5 and his friend has 2 chocolates. Thus, this intelligence can be achieved when the number sense IEP goals are set as below:

  1. Read, write, count numbers
  2. Match number with corresponding sets of things
  3. Count by 2s, 3s, 5s
  4. Indicate position by ordinal numbers
  5. Sort in ascending and descending order,
  6. learn approximation

In fact, the list is endless. A goal bank can be created and taken as a challenge to meet to help children attain age-appropriate proficiency.

Importance of IEP in building math skills and how it helped dyscalculics

IEP gives direction to the activity of imparting education. It is an on-going process and cannot be carried out alone. Teachers meet the child’s parents first and discuss his/her strengths and weaknesses as regards math and reasoning skills. Based on the children’s proficiency level and ability to grasp concepts, the IEP goals are set. In the case of special education programs, the IEP goals help design the curriculum so that the child’s learning needs are well-addressed.

How it helps dyscalculics?

Dyscalculics need alternative methods to acquire math and reasoning skills. They may find it almost impossible to show the same proficiency level as a routine student if both are given the same IEP goals. Therefore, based on the interaction with child and parents and the results of assessment tests, IEP goals can be set as follows for dyscalculics:

  • Learning the use of manipulatives and games to acquire basic skills like counting, cardinality
  • Playing games to achieve basic math skills like math operations, math reasoning, applying math in real-life situations, strategizing, etc.
  • Doing activities to learn math by practical means.
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Apart from deciding and adopting the teaching strategy, IEP goals setting helps to take teaching-related decisions such as:

  • How much time to be allotted to solve questions
  • Types of worksheets to give to solve problems
  • Giving flexibility to the child to repeat instructions
  • Emphasize keywords used in word problems
  • Design math facts and anchor charts

As a parent, you must know that as per IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), your children are entitled to the specialized or individualized education program when they are diagnosed with a learning disorder defined under this act. Hence, dyscalculics or their guardians need to know if IEP goals have been set, keeping the disability in mind.

How number sense can help achieve functional math IEP goals?

Number sense is the basic skill that forms the foundation for learning all functional math skills. Following are some of the Number Sense IEP goals that can help achieve functional math efficiency:

  • Counting and cardinality: Helps in money skills, finance, budget
  • Quantity identification: Helps in shopping and holding or moving things.
  • Capacity and Volume: Enhances community learning like how many people can sit in a bus, choosing a space according to seating capacity
  • Basic math operations: Estimation, subitizing, approximation, etc.
  • Size and spatial sense: Helps attain proficiency in mobility like climbing up and down the stairs, understanding the requirement of force and power to push or pull any object

What can be the best strategies to set IEP goals for number sense and functional math?

IEP goals are set to address the special learning needs of a child. The useful strategies that can help set IEP goals are:

  • Write a clearly definable goal: How much of a concept in what time should be learned by the child. Like, the ability to count ‘n’ numbers in ‘y’ seconds.
  • Set goals based on previous performance: A child’s behavior at home is also a previous performance for a first-timer at school. Further, the last year’s record of goals acquired can set the premise for the current year’s IEP goal setting.
  • Considering national norm: A weekly report of students’ growth from a chosen national sample can work as a base for setting up the IEP goals.
  • Setting benchmarks for mid-term performance: Instead of waiting till the end of the term to assess the extent of IEP goal achievement, the mid-term performance evaluation system proves to be a smart strategy. It helps decide the course of the second half of the term.
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To conclude,

IEP goals for number sense and functional math skills help put teaching in an organized and aptly-oriented framework. This helps address the specific learning needs of children with LDs and can also help teachers put the efforts in the correct direction.


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