Dyscalculia – Math learning disabilities

Have you heard of Dyscalculia? It’s a learning disability like Dyslexia, but for math. Dyslexia has become a household word, but Dyscalculia? Even my computer thinks it’s a typo.

Math learning builds on itself. Children with dyscalculia have difficulty learning the meaning of numbers, what we call number sense. Parents may remember these children having trouble with tasks like sorting objects by shape, size or color; recognizing groups and patterns; and comparing and contrasting heights, weights, sizes when they are very young. Learning to count, recognizing and matching numbers can also be difficult for these children.

When they start school, they struggle to remember and retain basic math facts (i.e. addition facts, times tables). Word problems are challenging to them as they have trouble figuring out how to apply what they already know to solve math problems.

Like most learning disabilities, Dyscalculia varies from person to person and affect people differently in school and throughout life. Among those with dyscalculia, some can develop math phobia, or a fear of math, because of bad experiences with math, being embarrassed in math class, or simply because of poor self-confidence in the subject.

Parents naturally want to know how to help their children if they have Discalculia.

First, get a professional diagnosis. Many children lack practice in math, or have difficulty concentrating (ADD, ADHD) in class which affect their ability to succeed in math, but the fix for that is very different from the approach dyscalculia kids need.

Second, recognize that it does not correlate to intelligence. Children with dyscalculia often live with the belief that they are stupid – and they may be told so by parents and teachers too. They may portray difficulty in memorizing their multiplication tables, add up, or subtract, and in fact numbers may make no sense to them at all. They may not be able to tell time easily on a non- digital clock, tie their shoe laces or read music notes. If these children don’t get help, and they end up shutting themselves from math, yes, they will grow up and find themselves not being able to participate in many intelligent conversations about sales discounts, restaurant tips, investments, economic trends, and cooking (lots of fractions!) – but that’s not because they are not intelligent, it’s because they closed the window on learning math.

Third, provide them more individualized learning environments where the instructor can tweak the way math is taught to them. This is not possible in a classroom of 25 to 30 kids. Dyscalculia kids need more individualized instruction – if one way of explaining fraction addition doesn’t sink in, the instructor can attempt another way, or switch to manipulatives for example, and not be tied down to the class clock and 30 other kids. When the instructor teaches a child, it’s to, for, with that child only. While the child is working on practice drills to reinforce the learning, the instructor can check on other students.

When teaching children with dyscalculia, it’s crucial that the teaching makes sense to them. Memorizing, flash cards are not as effective because they have a hard time retaining the information. Read about our student Lance, you know math makes sense to him when he starts taking it so personally : I demand a recount.

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