Exploring accessibility issues with mathematics

Curriculum Data Management and Probability
From the Ontario Ministry of Education Kindergarten Curriculum

Demonstrating Literacy and Mathematics Behaviours:

  • Measure, using non-standard units of the same size, and compare objects, materials, and spaces in terms of their length, mass, capacity, area, and temperature, and explore ways of measuring the passage of time, through inquiry and play-based learning
  • Describe, sort, classify, build, and compare two-dimensional shapes and three-dimensional figures, and describe the location and movement of objects through investigation
  • Collect, organize, display, and interpret data to solve problems and to communicate information, and explore the concept of probability in everyday contexts

Problem Solving and Innovating:

  • Use the processes and skills of an inquiry stance
  • Apply the mathematical processes to support the development of mathematical thinking, to demonstrate understanding, and to communicate thinking and learning in mathematics, while engaged in play-based learning and in other contexts

Context

Students explore measurement, data management and probability, and geometry and spatial sense. Through a survey of available accommodations for physical disabilities in their local community, they become aware of inequities in people’s daily lives.

Materials

  • Book: The Ramp Man or another book examining accessibility for wheelchair users.

Lesson
Introduction

  • Following the book-reading, introduce the term “accessible” and ask children to think about places or activities that may not be accessible to them. Ask the class to consider what it might mean for a store to be accessible to everyone.
  • Introduce the StopGap Foundation or another organization finding ways to remove accessibility barriers in society. StopGap provides support to organizations and communities to create barrier-free spaces.  Talk with students about the ways in which this organization creates inclusive spaces.
  • Prior to taking a community walk to check out the accessibility of neighbourhood resources to people in wheelchairs, create a list with the students of things they may want to take note of. For example, look for entrances without a ramp or entrances with only stairs.
  • Create a sheet for recording observations.

Lesson

Day 1

  • Take students on a community walk.
  • Use tally marks to record the number of businesses that are accessible or inaccessible. You may need to create a third column for unusual cases.

Follow-up 

  1. Count the tally marks to determine how many local businesses surveyed are accessible? Show students how to group tally marks in sets of five to speed up the counting.
  2. Create a simple two-bar graph or pictograph to easily compare the data. For ideas about early graphing, see our Introduction to Graphing lesson. To introduce pictographs, try our Sorting Apples lesson.
  3. Ask students to think about questions such as “Are more stores accessible or inaccessible to wheelchair users? How many more? How many more ramps would be needed to make ALL stores accessible?”
  4. Discuss questions such as the following:
    1. Why are some businesses accessible while others are not?
    2. What might prevent a business from being accessible?
    3. Is it fair for businesses to be inaccessible?
    4. Are there other ways than ramps that could improve accessibility?
    5. Brainstorm with students what action the class might take to improve the situation.

Day 2

Look at accessibility both into and within the school and record how many of the school’s entrances are accessible to everyone. Are any classrooms inaccessible to some students? Discuss what action students might take, if needed. How can they organize the data to best support their case?

  • Ask students to predict what three-dimensional shapes/blocks would work to create a safe ramp.

Extensions

  • Consider issues of accessibility beyond the needs of wheelchair users. Think about both physical needs including sight or hearing and learning/emotional needs. What kind of accommodations might support accessibility for these different kinds of needs?
  • Students experiment with three-dimensional shapes/blocks to create ramps. Systematically explore the effects of different dimensions including the length and height of the ramp. For lessons on measurement, explore our Early Years Measurement Lessons. Depending on the grade level, students may investigate steepness as a ratio of height to length. What effect does steepness (angle) have on the speed/distance of a ball rolling down the ramp? Experiment with lifting a very heavy object to a given height straight up without a ramp then try dragging the object to the same height along a ramp. Which is easier? As students experiment, have them predict what will happen then compare the results with their initial predictions.
  • Ask students to describe the characteristics of a safe ramp.
  • Other Ideas/Extensions: Students construct simple maps of their neighbourhood or school community. These maps can include accessible entrances as well as potential barriers. By superimposing a grid over the map with numbers/letters representing rows and columns, students can identify locations and movements on the map.