Meet Richard Garcia

As you read about me in this book, you’ll discover that I’m not really a math guy per se.  The fact is that, in terms of my educational background, I’ve never received any training in math.  I’m simply a special education teacher who happens to care deeply about the kids I teach, as I’m sure that you do.  So I guess you could say that this book is actually a miracle.

I don’t think I’m overstating the case.  I’m really shy by nature and my fears tend to paralyze me.  But after I attended a conference on school reform several years ago, my passion for teaching took wings as never before – and a dream was born in my heart.

The conference was called “No Excuses University.”  My principal, some co-workers and I attended the event together.  The premise was to identify the excuses that children bring to school – and to neutralize those excuses.  The idea was to create a learning environment in which kids can overcome excuses not to succeed.

The only exceptions would be special education students – given that, in most cases, these kids face obstacles that are more than environment-based.  Even so, I got to thinking, “What if I found a way to get the special education kids that I teach to learn the very same content the other students are required to learn?”

Young girl at school desk working math problems

This idea began to guide everything I did in my classroom.  And in my quest to find new ways to help kids learn, I stumbled onto something simple and rather stunning.  I used circles and dots to teach kids how to find answers to multiplication problems – and the more I used this method, the more I began to see.  Patterns emerged before my eyes with amazing clarity, and mathematical terms started to explode with meaning.

What happened is very humbling for me to admit – I came to understand basic math for the first time in my life.  Consequently, I was able to explain math to my students much more effectively than ever.

To put it another way, previously, MY STUDENTS HAD BEEN STUCK BECAUSE I WAS STUCK!  That was the hard truth – a truth that opened up new opportunities to help students who struggle with numbers.

As I said earlier, I’m not a math guy.  I’m a special education teacher who desperately wants to help kids learn…wonderful kids like Cameron and Matthew.  I believe they deserve the opportunity to learn math as much as any other student.

Cheerful Student Solving Mathematics Problems

The amazing thing is that my special education students routinely score high on standardized math tests.  That’s because the basic counting techniques that I use – and explain step-by-step in this book – are so easy to understand.  My shyness still gets the better of me from time to time, but I put that aside because I feel I have a duty to help kids take firm hold of the approach to math contained in these pages.

Learn more about Richard’s “My Story”

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