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Patti Voelker

Teaching math to students with dyslexia

Get to know Patti Voelker, Park Academy’s Middle School Math Teacher, and learn how she teaches math to students with dyslexia in regular and online environments.

Patti Voelker is the middle school math teacher for Park Academy.  She enjoys teaching to this age group as these young people are developing their independence, their voice, their minds and growing into the people they will become as adults.  

In college, Patti was drawn to calculus class, even though it wasn’t a requirement of her degree. She enjoyed her engineer peers and she acquired her math endorsement quite naturally!  When she graduated, middle school positions were in need and high demand. Throw in the opportunity to teach math and Patti was hooked!

Patti believes in bringing meaning to math for her students, rather than just making it a chore to be accomplished.  Her curriculum is student-driven and problem-presented. Therefore students use different tools to arrive at the answer to a problem. There is no one right way to accomplish the task at hand and Patti encourages students to share their strategies and learn from others.

For example, a student might solve a ratio problem by writing a list of equivalent ratios, making a table, using a double number line, using a tape diagram, using colored tiles, making a drawing or simply dividing or multiplying. When students present their method to the class, they gain confidence in themselves. When they listen to each other, they learn new strategies that they can apply to solve future problems.

Once, when students were presented with four illustrations and needed to identify the one that could not be used to determine the area, her students unanimously chose the wrong one. By asking questions, inquiring about details, and having the students discuss their reasoning, the class was able to land on the correct answer together and learn some important math concepts.

Her advice to teachers: learn how to manage your classroom climate. A student needs to feel safe, especially in middle school, to take chances, make mistakes and participate in class.

Her advice to parents, don’t hate on math!  While many parents voice that they too struggled with math as a student, encourage positive talk about learning math. Think of solving math problems like you would writing an essay. Don’t expect it to be perfect the first time. Look at your work, talk to others, and develop new strategies. Mistakes will happen because it is a learning process.

You can learn more about Patti and how she teaches math at Park Academy, both in the classroom and during our recent online learning by going to the Teaching Math Teaching Podcast.  During this podcast, PSU Professor and Park Academy parent, Eva Thanheiser interviews Patti.  For more information on the Teaching Math Teaching Podcast, please visit their website.

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