**Introduction
**

Traditionally,
the strategy for maximizing student achievement in both regular and special
education environments has been direct instruction.
There is ample evidence to support such claims.
Teachers who use direct instruction are bound to identify specific
target
behavior they intend to teach.
Lesson
delivery resources, skills to be taught and measurement of pupil performance
are
all based on behavior exhibited by students.
This is perhaps, contrary to the constructivist theory, which tends
to be
student-centered. In a
constructivist teaching and learning situation, a student is expected to
make
their own meaning from each concept or skill taught.** **Authenticity of learning is measured through
application
of the concepts and skills in real life situations.

This presentation
represents
classroom research on teaching and learning.
The purpose of the research was to establish the constructivist
approach
as an alternative to teaching science and mathematics. This involves going through what Henderson (1996) calls
“plan-act-observe-evaluate cycle.” The students are encouraged to
communicate extensively. The
communication could be verbal, in writing or silent interaction.
It would be between student and student, student and teacher, or
student
and the computer. The use of
the
computer and other technology during the research period are considered
sufficient tools for enhancing the learning of math and science.
Participants will examine student active-learning models.

Unlike the basic skill of
mathematics, science is generally considered a content subject, and
mastering
the content is, therefore, embedded in the goal of the study of
science.
We believe that the study of science also includes not only learning
the
process skills, but the application of the skills in learning concepts. For
both
math and science, focus was on the assessment of skills and the eventual
remediation of any difficulties students might have.
Besides factual and conceptual knowledge, laboratory type skills,
intellectual skills, and generic thinking skills were assessed (NCTM, 1989;
NRA,
1995).

**Methods
**

In this research, the
researchers made observations during mathematics and science teaching
situations. Mathematical
computation skills, and the difficulties elementary and middle school
students
experience in combining and manipulating numbers to solve problems were
observed. The researchers also examined the critical thinking skills
students
used as they stated hypotheses, experimented, drew conclusions, and
reflected on
the conclusions in relation to the stated science problems.
Data were then gathered on science and mathematics readiness skills
critical to a good foundation in future problem solving situations. Possible problem behaviors were identified using
inventories
and other observational tools, to enable the researchers to devise
corrective
strategies (Enright, 1990).

**Results
and Analysis**** **

Observations revealed that
for
primary grades, the special needs children exhibited higher problem
behaviors
than non-handicapped students as follows: understanding basic number
concepts (SN=75%,
NSN-32%) writing and summarizing numbers (SN=68%, NSN=18%).
Special needs students also were seen to exhibit problems in each of
whole number operations, fractions, and decimals.
Special needs students were observed to more often forget their basic
number parts, frequently using fingers to count or relying on a number line
or
needing the use of a manipulative for basic computation. However, both
special
needs and non-special needs students had problems seeking relationships
between
parts and the whole concept needed to solve problems involving fractions and
decimals. In science, observations showed that students with
special
needs characterized by behavioral and learning disabilities were nearly
equally
able to observe and describe directed experimentation, use the computer as a
learning tool, and choose a correct instrument for taking simple
measurements.
Non-special needs students, however, were seen to possess greater
skills
for distinguishing relevant features of an observation, accessing data via
on-line and on-print sources, sorting and grouping data, and making
inferences
and describing relationships and patterns.

The research shows that
special needs (SN) students differed from non-special needs (NSN) students
in
the way they process information, in the way they identify by commonalities,
cause and effect, and in the way they combine information into a new
whole.
Differences were also observed in planning of experiments (true
inquiry)
to test hypotheses and critiquing the worth of information and principles
and of
the logic of information and principles.

**
**

**Discussion**

Evidence
gathered from this study may not provide conclusive results. However, the
study
tends to show that there exists marked differences in the way special needs
students and non-handicapped students learn mathematics and science.
The differences were seen where a deeper understanding and
application of
concepts were required. Special
needs students tended to take longer periods of time in solving conceptual
and
contextual problems that demanded higher order thinking skills. This is particularly so when teaching strategies are
mainly
at the abstract, symbolic level.
When
the constructivist approach was used, all students were able to make
meanings of
the concepts taught. Student
active-learning was present and there appeared to be an increase in
conceptual
knowledge because teachers knew when to use appropriate materials and
approaches
(Bruner, 1986; Carin & Bass, 2001; Ebenezer & Connor, 1998; Martin,
2000; Piaget, 1973; and Victor & Kellough, 2000).
The study also demonstrated the effectiveness of observational
procedures
in collecting data for assessment of learning problems that special needs
students experience in science and mathematics (Turnbull, Turnbull, Shank,
&
Leal, 1999).

We
do recognize that children may not display significant behaviors during
observations. The
interpretation of
certain behaviors may also at times not be clear or unbiased.
Though the study does not possess sufficient depth for broad
generalizations to be made for effective teaching of math and science to
students with special needs as well as those in regular classrooms, the
following implications could be drawn from the study: (1) Language
development
is necessary to enhance mathematical and scientific thinking and processes
(Vygotsky,
1962); (2) Students should be provided opportunities to use concepts and
manipulative materials, including computers; (3) Provide plenty of practice
that
is appropriate to the age and learning levels of the children; (4) Use cues
and
prompts to facilitate the thinking and problem-solving process; and (5)
Proceed
from the simple to the complex procedures for learning concepts.

**References
**

Bruner,
J. (1986). __Actual minds, possible worlds__. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press.

Ebennezer,
J.V.& Connor, S. (1998). __Learning to teach science: A model for
the__
__21 ^{st}
century__.
Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Merrill.

Carin,
A.A.& Bass, J.E. (2001). __Teaching science as inquiry__. Upper
Saddle
River,N.J.: Merrill.

Choate,
J.S. (1997). __Successful inclusive teaching: Proven ways to detect and
____connect special
needs__.
Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Henderson,
J.G. (1996). __Reflective teaching: The study of your constructivist
____practice__.
Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

Martin,
D.J. (2000). __Elementary science methods: A constructivist approach.
__Belmont, CA:
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National
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____professional
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National
Council of Teachers of Mathematics (1989). __Professional standards for
____teaching
math__.
Reston, VA: NCTM.

Piaget,
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Paladin.

Victor,
E. & Kellough, (2000). __Science in the elementary and middle
school__.

Englewood Cliffs, N.J.:
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Vygotsky,
L.S. (1962). __Thought and language__. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.