Author Bio: Raul Aldape (October 14, 2013)

When developing math activities for adults, I often think about how my students learn best. Having worked as a vision therapist for 3 years and taught 20 years in public schools and a correctional setting, I’ve been able to blend elementary math learning center activities into the adult math classroom setting.

While teaching my adult students back in 2001, I ran into situations where the students would say “Could you repeat that step?” After having repeated the step thru a new math problem, I found that students understood it, that day. What my students taught me was that if I kept the same “verbiage”, they were more likely to remember the process I was teaching. Thus, thru “trial and error,” I was able to develop 51 phrases (11 mnemonic) to help my students remember process steps and basic vocabulary covering number sense, fractions, problem solving code words, measurement, algebra, and geometry.

As these phrases became popular with students, I started thinking of ways that they could “repeat” my phrases outside of the classroom. So, I put them on paper and began to brain storm ways in which they could interact with the phrases.

The first thing that came to mind was my experience as a vision therapist from 1993 thru 1996. Back then, I worked with children in a vision learning clinic. Under the direction and guidance of a behavioral optometrist, I provided therapy to children with visual dysfunctions. Often times, parents of the children I worked with at the clinic would report that their child was more attentive at school, they could remember better, or their attitudes toward school had improved. Consequently, vision related skills activities became a focal point for the development of activities to help my students in math.

By carefully considering the difficulties that my students faced when working with each other, I integrated the phrases into 5 multisensory learning centers using flashcards, dice games, memory collages, metronome sentences, and oral drills. Now, cooperative groups of 2-4 students work on reviewing anything from Place Value to Pythagorean Theorem.

The flashcards center is used as a memory match game where each phrase is separated into 2 parts, placed upside down, and scrambled where the corresponding phrase parts have to be matched in order to score a point. The dice games center focuses on the cooperative versus competitive aspect of learning the math phrases. It’s a great way to just have fun and avoid the everyday rut of using ditto sheets for skill drill.

The memory collage serves as an artistic center for the student to create a picture of the concept, skill, or process they are learning. A student is able to put into pictures what the phrase means to them. The metronome sentences center allows the student to interact with the phrase thru hand clapping, feet stomping, and ball tossing. Thru the metronome sentences center, students can learn how to relax while recalling the process phrase.

Finally, in the Oral drills center, two students are able to review phrases split into two parts. One student can take on the role of the instructor while the second student takes on the role of the learner. The instructor may either state the first or second part of a phrase, and the learner is required to respond accordingly with whichever part (first or second) to complete the phrase started by the instructor. The five centers have allowed me to differentiate instruction and accommodate the various learning modalities inherent in any classroom setting.

When designing your math activities for learners (child or adult), I suggest keeping the following questions in mind: Can they have fun? Can they do this on their own? Will they remember it for any test?

Raul Aldape

Pk-6 Bilingual Teacher/Author/Trainer


*Texas PreK-6 Bilingual Certified Teacher

*Texas Education Agency Continuing Education Provider #901962

*Correctional Education Auditor

*National Spanish Immersion Instructor

Twitter: (@MathOralDrills)



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