Today’s interview is with Mina Greenfield.  She has been a speech-language pathologist for sixteen years.  I enjoyed hearing not only about the math involved in her job but also about her work with children on the autism spectrum.  People like Mina are becoming needed more and more as autism is on the rise. I’m so thankful that she has dedicated herself to this important job.

Can you explain what you do for a living?

I am a clinician in a private school for students on the autism spectrum. I work on interdisciplinary teams that include classroom teachers, teaching assistants, occupational therapists, and social workers. When most people think of a “speech therapist”, they think of kids that can’t say their R’s or S’s. However, my work takes a broader look at communication. Can they understand what they hear or read? Can they express their ideas? And can they use language to communicate effectively with others?

When do you use basic math in your job?

I use basic math in my job to calculate my billable hours (each 15 minute segment counts as a unit) and to compare my “scheduled vs. actual” therapy time for the week (i.e. I was scheduled to do 23.5 hours of therapy time, but a kid was absent so my actual time was 22.5). I also use math when scoring standardized tests and interpreting test scores on incoming reports. When looking at standardized tests, usually the mean =100 and the standard deviation (SD) is 15. Therefore scores between 85 and 115 are considered to be within the average range. If I read a report on a new kiddo and I see language scores that are in the 60’s or 70’s (or lower), I will be keeping a close clinical eye on him. Percentile ranks also make frequent appearances in assessments.

Do you use any technology (like calculators or computers) to help with this math? Why or why not?

I use a widget calculator on my desktop for daily and weekly billable hours. I’ve always been good at mental math so it makes that process much quicker. When scoring standardized tests, there’s a lot of basic addition to determine a raw score, but then you use the manual to look up corresponding scores which does not require math.

How do you think math helps you do your job better?

My ability to do mental math makes my job much quicker which I suppose makes me do my job more efficiently (better). I’ve been in the field long enough that I don’t have to “think” about standardized scores and what they mean. If I see a certain number, I know it indicates a certain strength or deficit.

How comfortable with math do you feel? Does this math feel different to you?

For my purposes, I feel comfortable with math all of the time. Again, I’m very thankful I’m good at mental math.

What kind of math did you take in high school? Did you like it/feel like you were good at it?

I took them all…Geometry, Trigonometry, Calculus, and AP Calculus. I also took statistics in college.

Did you have to learn new skills in order to do the math you use in your job? Or was it something that you could pick up using the skills you learned in school?

I picked up the math at my current job pretty quickly. I think compared to other professions, it’s “basic” math. (maybe?)

Questions for Mina?  Let me know, and I’ll pass them on.

Photo Credit: fotoroto via Compfight cc