O&M Lesson: Teaching Distance Estimates using BlindSquare

Sally is a 7th grade student who is totally blind and has classes that often use ‘feet’ and ‘square feet’ as a measurement. She encounters this in her math class, and a version of it in Geography unit as the class explores maps. Sally struggles with understanding what 25 feet, or 50 feet, look like.

She is a petite student and does not move with long strides, or even consistent strides, so using her stride as a measurement has not yet been reliable.

Sally has been introduced to the app BlindSquare and is learning how to mark places. Each day she arrives at school and gets off the bus. She then walks around the side of the school to the entrance. 

Without using any technology, Sally walks this route with me and I ask her to estimate how many feet it is from the bus stop to the door of the school.  Sally gives me her answer. As she doesn’t have enough experience with thinking about distance in feet measurements, or any measurements, Sally takes a wild guess: 500 feet.

Now using the app BlindSquare, Sally marks the front door of the school as Middle School Entrance. In settings, she has changed the unit measurement to feet.

We then make our way to the bus stop, where Sally opens BlindSquare and recalls the Middle School Entrance from My Places.  Sally knows this route well, and so pays the most attention to the distance information given at the beginning. 85 feet is the distance. Sally listens as she walks to the distance read out. She arrives at the front door, surprised that she has not travelled 500 feet, and having a concrete experience of what 85 feet feel like to traverse.

Sally is pleased with her experiment and begins challenging herself to estimate distance and then test her estimate. She transfers this experiential knowledge to how large a room in when she crosses it, and she pays attention to how the rooms sound.

While using her time and distance experience, her new favorite app, BlindSquare, and sharpening her auditory interpretation of room size, Sally now does not feel as alienated from the concept of feet, and can pay closer attention to the Math and Geography lesson in which she encounters these terms.

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