Lawrence L. Dyson Sr., 69, taught special education in Balto. County

February 17, 2003|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Lawrence L. Dyson Sr., a retired Baltimore County special education teacher who invented a sliding gadget to help his young pupils learn mathematics, died Wednesday of cancer at his home in Ellicott City. He was 69 and had lived in Ellicott City for more than 20 years.

A Baltimore native, Mr. Dyson was educated in the public school system and served in the Army from 1954 to 1956 as a military police officer. While putting himself through college, he worked for the U.S. Postal Service, an insurance company and in a number of part-time jobs. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in education at Coppin State College, where he played basketball -- another lifelong passion.

Mr. Dyson was certified to teach physical education and special education. For much of his career, he taught special education in Baltimore County, including at Sudbrook Magnet Middle and Maiden Choice Elementary schools, before retiring in 1989.

To help his pupils learn early concepts in mathematics, he invented and marketed a tool called Dyn-O-Math, a sliding stick -- not a slide rule -- with numbers arranged vertically from 0 to 19. He sold thousands of the devices, said his son, Lawrence L. Dyson Jr. of Columbia.

In a 1981 interview in The Evening Sun, Mr. Dyson described the trademarked item that he created to help his first- through third-graders, and explained, "We teach kids horizontal numbers when they should be learning vertically. ... Kids seem to group better that way."

He said he worked with his pupils for about two years, through trial and error, before the idea of the sliding stick evolved. "At first, I used a piece of cardboard. When I saw how well it was working, I ran down to the wood shop and got some plastic and had it cut into strips."

The stick was recommended for use in city schools remedial math programs, according to an official mentioned in the article.

Mr. Dyson also was an avid basketball fan and player and played in recreation leagues and for semiprofessional and old-timers' teams. Among these were Baker's Gulf, The Organization, the Old Timers, Hoffman's of the Baltimore Unlimited League and the Coppin State 5.

"He loved basketball. He played all the way into his 60s," said his son. Mr. Dyson was a deacon emeritus at the Evangel Church in Upper Marlboro. He later worshiped at the Ellicott City Assembly of God, Rehoboth International, and the Baltimore Christian Faith Center in Randallstown, where he served in a ministry to nursing homes in Howard County. His son said that Mr. Dyson also invented a Christian board game called Rhema -- "the living word of God" -- that he marketed with his son-in-law, Joseph Smith.

Funeral services are scheduled at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the Ellicott City Assembly of God, 10600 Frederick Road, Ellicott City.

In addition to his son, Mr. Dyson is survived by his wife of 49 years, the former Jean Stokes; a daughter, Junetta D. Smith of Largo, Fla.; three sisters, Lena Washington of Woodlawn, Elnora Gough of Baltimore, and Juanita Dyson of Columbia; a brother, James Grey of Baltimore; four grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.

Sun staff researcher Jean Packard contributed to this article.

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