Susan Osterhaus

In this webcast, Susan Osterhaus from the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired shares her insights related to instructional strategies and resources for teaching math to students who are blind or visually impaired. She talks about the use of technology and the challenges of standardized testing for this population.

CHAPTER 1: Introduction

Osterhaus presents a webcast on Teaching Math to Students Who are Blind or Visually Impaired.OSTERHAUS: I actually started in the fall of 1978. I did have a background in teaching mathematics. I have a bachelor’s degree in math, a master’s degree in mathematics education, and I have a Texas certification to teach secondary mathematics. But I had no knowledge at all of teaching blind and visually impaired students, and I just kind of happened across.

There was an opening, and I decided to just check it out and basically I went in for, I thought, my first interview at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Austin, Texas. Actually it was TSB in those days, Texas School for the Blind. And they kidnapped me. (laughing).

No, they wouldn’t let me go. You know, I walked in and the principal who interviewed me said, “We need you desperately. Your credentials are fantastic.” And I was there, you know, normally when you’re in interview you’re supposed to be telling them the best things about you, and I’m going, like, “But I’ve never taught the blind and visually impaired.”

“No problem,” you know. “You will have to go back to school, get your certification, but you can do it.” And so I said yes, and here it is 36 years later, so I must have liked it. I really thoroughly still enjoy, you know, what I did. But again, I knew, you know, virtually nothing about teaching the blind and visually impaired. And, in fact, in those days, unbeknownst to me, a lot of people really didn’t feel that a blind person could go on into higher mathematics.

Let me put it this way, the average person. We have our geniuses, you know, that just happen to be blind and so forth. But the average student who was blind was thought to, you know, not really have any hope of going into higher mathematics and so forth, that it was such a difficult subject. Well, anyway, I didn’t know that and so I just jumped in.

And bottom line, when I started in 1978, the highest level of mathematics taught at our school, at least, was a kind of a two-year, I’d say equivalent to pre-algebra nowadays. And now we have students taking calculus, scoring fives — five, that’s the highest you can score on an AP calculus exam. So we proved them wrong, those other people. View the original article