Center for Alternative Learning

6 E. Eagle Road

Havertown, PA 19083

Serving Those Who Learn Differently

Learning disAbilities Newsletter

Vol. 16 No.4                                     June 1999


Center for Alternative Learning

6 East Eagle Road

Havertown, PA 19083



Tic Tac Toe Math Research Project

The Tic Tac Toe Math method developed by Dr. Cooper is now 13 years old. He reports that he developed the technique for middle school students who were frustrated and embarrassed because they did not know their times tables. Tic Tac Toe Math uses visual patterns rather than rote memory for doing multiplication. The basic system consists of 9 tic tac toe grids. These grids can be made into the times tables for any number. Students who learn and use Tic Tac Toe Math can easily form multi-digit times tables for solving long division problems. Five years ago Dr. Cooper developed the cube of Tic Tac Toe Math but he had not found any use for it so it has remained as an interesting set of patterns which he would occasionally play with. Then three months ago he found a way to use the TTT cube for teaching and solving fractions. With renewed interest, Dr. Cooper began to experiment with the cube. He has showed the cube to adult students and colleagues. Individuals who understand Tic Tac Toe Math and can form the basic grids are excited to see the patterns in the cube and how easy it is to use the cube for fractions and percentages. Dr. Cooper is working on a new workbook, Advanced Tic Tac Toe Math, The Cube. This workbook will be available in September of this year.

The research project on Tic Tac Toe Math has produced an interesting bit of information. One of the reasons students say they use Tic Toe Math is because they can. Implied in this, and sometimes stated, is that they can and others cannot. This provides many individuals with a change in self-image from I can’t learn to I can learn.

If you are a student or a teacher who has tried or used Tic Tac Toe Math, we would like to hear from you. We want to know the success stories and the not so successful stories. You can either write us by regular mail or e-mail describing your experience with Tic Tac Toe Math or you can arrange for a phone interview with a member of our staff.



Dr. Cooper will be making two presentations at the Galaxy II Adult Education conference in San Antonio, Texas: one on alternative study skills and the other on math techniques. For more information about the Summit and the conference, visit the web site


Center For Alternative Learning

The Center continues to provide services to adults with learning differences and adults who have limited English skills. We are looking for individuals in Southeastern Pennsylvania who have learning problems. Students who are willing to participate will be screened for learning problems and take part in instruction which will be measured to gather data on the effectiveness of the learning materials developed by Dr. Cooper. If you would like to participate or know someone you would like to refer to our program, contact our office at 610-446-6126.


Special Thanks

We want to send a special thanks to John and Dorothy Cooper, Dr. Cooper’s parents, for the help they have provided: room and board while he is on the road in Western Pennsylvania and help with special projects like the dividing of the ceiling lights at the Center to help conserve electricity, converting talking calculators, and much, much more.


Up-Coming Presentations by Dr. Cooper

June 8 Central New York Staff Development, Syracuse, NY 1) Teaching Reading, Writing, and Math, 2) Alternative Study Skills, 3) Employability Skills

July 7, 8 & 9 Kansas Adult Education Summer Institute, Manhattan, KS Six Sessions on Learning Differences and Alternative Instructional Techniques

July 19 & 21 Upper Darby School District. Upper Darby, PA Teaching Math to Children with Learning Problems

August 16 & 18 Upper Darby School District. Upper Darby, PA Teaching Reading to Children with Learning Problems

October 13 & 14 Galaxy II Adult Education Conference, San Antonio, TX Alternative Study Skills and Alternative Math Techniques

November 10 & 11 Literacy Volunteers of America’s Annual Conference, Nashville, TN 1) Pre Conference Workshop: Alternative Instructional Materials for Adults who Learn Differently 2) (For Adult Students) Straight Talk about How Adults Learn Differently, 3) Alternative Materials for Teaching Reading and Writing


Pennsylvania Statewide Staff Development Project

Dr. Cooper will conduct three training sessions in June for adult education programs around the state. We have applied again this year to the Department of Education, Adult Basic and Literacy Education to operate the staff development during the next academic year. If funding is approved, Dr. Cooper will be available to conduct training during July and August for those agencies which find it convenient to offer training to teachers and volunteer tutors during the summer months.

During the past year, Dr. Cooper conducted many demonstrations of his screening and instructional techniques which he has developed. The demonstrations are an alternative to workshop type training sessions. Teachers and tutors who have participated in these demonstrations report that seeing the techniques in action increases their understanding of the techniques and how alternative techniques can be used to match a student’s thought patterns. Teachers and tutors can contact Dr. Cooper at 1-800-869-8336 to inquire about alternative techniques or to ask questions about their students. The Center’s web site ( is another way to contact Dr. Cooper and obtain information about learning differences, problems and disabilities.


June Training Schedule


June 1 Willow Grove Literacy 7:30 - 9:00

Cooper Screening of Information Processing Willow Grove


June 5 Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council 9:30 - 11:30

Study and Spelling Techniques East Liberty


June 24 Susquehanna Co Literacy Council 5:30 - 8:30

Questions and Answers about Adults with Learning Problems Montrose



Questions & Answers

Q) The adult I am tutoring can barely read. He looks at a word and does not know it but if he spells it out he is often able to get it. What is this and how can I help him to learn to read?

A) Spelling out words is a primitive decoding technique which some poor readers use to figure out words. It is primitive because it is not based on the structure of language and limits the person because it takes a long time to figure out a word and the person cannot remember that many words. The first thing you do is to explain that this is one technique for word recognition, but there are others that the person needs to learn. Second, you should encourage the student not to spell out the words. If the person finds it difficult to break the habit of spelling out the words, then provide the person with clues about how to recognize the word without spelling it. Also provide the student with a list of large words which he/she does not know and have the person practice reading these words to develop the good habit of using other word attack skills or sight recognition.


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Using Patterns to Learn

Many students who have weak language skills appear to do well with patterns. I have observed many students with reading, writing, spelling and math problems who are able to succeed academically because of their ability to learn the information they need to know by finding patterns in the material or by placing that information in to the form of patterns. An example of this is Tic Tac Toe Math which uses visual patterns as an alternative for the memorization of the times tables. Some individuals learn this system very easily and it appears to be because they are able to recognize and remember patterns well. Another example is using the pattern of HTO for understanding and reading large numbers. The pattern of Hundreds, Tens and Ones is easier for some students to remember than to remember the names of the place values such as hundred million, ten thousand etc. In language, I have found that putting the parts of speech into positions which allow students to see the patterns in sentences help them to understand the structure of language. (The Parts of Speech Pattern was included in the July, 1998 Newsletter, Vol.15 No.4) The use of stacking as a spelling technique is another example of how visual patterns in words can be used as a memory aid.

Many individuals are able to use auditory patterns for learning. An example of this is the sequence of tones made when dialing a push button phone. The person knows that the right number has been dialed because it sounds correct.

Dr. Cooper is interested in information about the use of patterns. If you are an individual who uses patterns to learn or teach, he would like to discuss your experiences and techniques. Please call 1-800-869-8336. Dr. Cooper is collecting examples of pattern learning and teaching for inclusion in an article which he is preparing.


Personal Project Planner

Individuals who are not naturally talented at organization often find it difficult to complete tasks which require a number of steps. Dr. Cooper has found that there are two underlying problems that many people have with completing tasks: 1) their limited skills in doing task analysis (identifying all of the steps involved in a project) and 2) their poor planning skills. He has designed the Personal Project Planner as a simple tool to assist individuals to learn how to identify the steps or parts of a project and schedule the work for each step. Two copies are included in this newsletter: one is blank and the other is completed to illustrate how to use the Personal Project Planner.

The person using the PPP fills in the Project Title, the Date Assigned and the Due Date. Then he or she places one task or step of a project in each box. After all the steps are listed, the person places times for the completion of each task on the line under the boxes. The Planner should be placed in a location where the person can review it often to check that he or she is on schedule.

Many individuals need to make a couple of drafts of the planner because the first time through, he or she might miss some steps of the project. If you review the example page which is included, you can see that the person may need to combine two pages to expand the number of times the person needs to rewrite a written assignment. By taping two or more pages together the student can plan all the revisions that might be needed to write.