Indiana State University Newsroom

Future teachers learn math and diversity

April 27, 2010

Erica Crabb and Chelsi Craig had a difference of opinion on time.

"I did do two," said Craig, an Indiana State University senior elementary education major from Marshall, Ill.

"You did one o'clock," countered Crabb, senior elementary education major from Bloomfield.

Craig could be forgiven for her confusion. She wore a blindfold as she tried to set the time on a paper clock with moveable hands.

"I had to find the center so it was easiest at 12, six, three or nine," she said after she removed the blindfold. "I had a problem with the one and two."

Crabb and Craig enrolled this spring semester in "Teaching Elementary School Math" taught by Marylin Leinenbach, associate professor of elementary education. Leinenbach incorporates math into other subjects such as literature. The Bayh College of Education Math Center in University Hall has been stocked with books that mix math concepts into stories, such as ones dealing with diverse cultures or physical disabilities. Students, teachers and parents may check out materials from the center.

"Because of our classrooms now that we're in the year 2010, we have children from many different cultures and we have children with many different disabilities," Leinenbach said. "Math, literature and diversity is the world."

During the Monday (April 26) morning lesson in the University Hall Math Center, the students pretended to be first graders for the lesson on diversity in math.

"I'm hoping when these pre-service teachers get in the real world and are teaching they remember this experience," Leinenbach said. "It is possible to teach mathematics to a non-sighted person."

Jeff McCoy and Amy Bigham , both senior elementary education and special education majors, presented the lesson that incorporated math, literature, and learning while blind. Bigham read the children's story "Through Grandpa's Eyes" by Patricia MacLachlan. In the book, a boy learns how his grandfather compensates for being blind such as reading his plate of breakfast food as a clock.

"I'm disabled so it's good to teach children what it's like to lose a sense," said McCoy, a diabetic who had to have both of his legs amputated five years ago. He now gets around on prosthetics.

"It will help them learn to sympathize with others when they can't do something," Bigham said.

Both said they plan to carry the lessons they've learned with them into the classroom.

"You can get the human side of the lesson with math and literature," McCoy said. "It will only help the children later in life. They don't realize they're also learning math and how to read. As a teacher, it gives a more diversified plan."

Now familiar with the Math Center, they plan to make use of it with its books incorporating literature and math, as well as activities from the clocks to tangrams and games.

"Right now we don't have a lot of money," Bigham said. "Teachers usually accumulate all of that through time."

"We know when we're out teaching we can come back and use all of that stuff," McCoy said.

The Math Center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Items in the center will soon be placed on line for borrowing.

Erica Crabb checks to see if Chelsi Craig managed to put the correct time on the clock while blindfolded. The ISU students were participating in a diversity math lesson. ISU Photo/Kara Berchem

Jeff McCoy and Amy Bigham, senior elementary and special education majors, present a lesson on diversity and math. ISU Photo/Kara Berchem

Contact: Marylin Leinenbach, Indiana State University, associate professor of elementary education, at 812-237-2847 or

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, assistant director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or