Mathematics can often be an area of difficulty for people with dyslexia. Mathematics has its own distinct language and symbols. Mathematics also has a heavy reliance on processing speed and working memory. There is also a high incidence of dyscalculia as a comorbidity with dyslexia.
“5. Difficulties mastering number sense, number facts, or calculation (e.g. Has poor understanding of numbers, their magnitude, and relationships.” Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorder (DSM-5)
“There is a high co-morbidity rate for children with developmental dyscalculia and dyslexia. Between 60% and 100% of dyslexics have difficulty with certain aspects of mathematics (Miles, 1993 & Joffe, 1990).” Dyslexia help University of Michigan
The fundamental principles of the remediation of mathematical difficulties are;
-Teach concepts and understanding in a hands on way.
-Mastery of basic facts and concepts is essential.
-Focus on students area of weakness.
-Variety and repetition until automaticity of essentials.
-Play games and make relevant to life to alleviate anxiety and increase motivation.
“I was, on the whole, considerably discouraged by my school days. It was not pleasant to feel oneself so completely outclassed and left behind at the beginning of the race.” “a quadratic equation belonged to the world of Alice in Wonderland and the Differential Calculus was a dragon” Winston Churchill ” Winston Churchill’s description of mathematics echoes the feelings of many people with a mathematical disability. For them, the world of numbers, equations, and mathematic problems is populated by evil creatures, designed to make their life miserable.” Understanding Dyslexia and other Learning Disabilites Linda Siegel 2013 Pacific Educational Press
Mathematics anxiety is a well researched area and can have a significant impact on kids struggling to cope with the extra demands learning difficulties place upon them everyday in school. Mathematics, as taught in the curriculum, gives children the belief that they are either right or wrong and leaves little room for creativity.
The greatest level of anxiety for my daughter currently is mathematics. She is actually doing well in English. With the help of remediation she reads slowly but at age appropriate level. With the help of the great assistive technology features of her IPAD her creative writing has blossomed and she writes for pleasure. With Math if she gets stuck on the initial problem in a set of many she has to wait for help. She will rarely take a punt a giving it a go, because to do that she risks a whole page of red pen. Getting her spelling wrong in a beautiful written piece still earns her praise.
Years of Mathematics failure have lead to a lot of anxiety. At home what she can understand and achieve in Maths is not in line with the classroom. She says that she freezes up just walking into Mathematics. What are we doing wrong? Why are we creating generations of children afraid of Mathematics? Not just kids with learning difficulties but Maths anxiety is well documented in the general population. For a comprehensive examination of Math anxiety Steve Chinn’s essay is worth examination. http://stevechinn.co.uk/child%20devel%20beliefs.pdf
Manipulatives and exploration of Mathematics concepts in the early years does not play enough of a role and is pushed out early by wrote learning and speed of calculation. My daughter actually spent quite a few psychologist sessions discussing her severe anxiety over weekly Maths Mentals! Children, especially those with learning difficulties, need to be given the opportunity to master basic skills and concepts before moving forward otherwise they risk missing basic essential foundations. These foundations I have had to re teach to my daughter.
We need to allow more exploration of Mathematics concepts and allow children to find other ways of solving a problem. Many times in the teaching of my daughter we threw out the way she was being taught at school and examined her own ways of doing calculations. Sometimes weeks spent doing something one way, without success, a conceptual understanding would be achieved in one lesson using a different approach. At home we have had many light bulb moments.
I think we can probably take a lot of lessons from the rise of Singapore to the top of the maths world. In Singapore maths the focus is on mastery of basic concepts and problem solving skills. There is a significant use of visual aids and manipulatives in the classroom and not just in the first year or two. Children are not shoved into the slow group but the class moves ahead when mastery is achieved for all. This avoids development of anxiety and poor maths self concept. Maths moves slower but mathematics foundations are solid. In every High School Mathematics classroom in Australia there are many children with large skill and concept gaps.
“Singapore maths is a method of teaching mathematics which emphasises problem solving. It works with people’s ability to visualise things, recognise patterns and make decisions. It does not resort to rote learning, memorisation or other tedious tactics that put most people off mathematics at a very early age. The goal is to make sure people understand what is going on and that they are not performing procedures that don’t make any sense to them. There is very little reliance on tedious calculations, memorisation and meaningless repetition as those things don’t help anyone to become a thinker; and creating thinkers is the goal.” https://mathsnoproblem.com/singapore-math-singapore-maths/
For someone like myself who found Maths effortless it has been a big learning curve for me to turn around and teach my daughter the basic concepts when school left her behind. We are still working on Maths and I am not sure if we will ever overcome her hatred of math and the anxiety that has developed. She loves reading and writing despite having Dyslexia and Dysgraphia but the fear of Maths weighs heavily.
For more information on Dyscalculia and maths difficulties I recommend;
Steven Chinn who started out in Dyslexia remediation and realised a lot of children also struggle with Math. Dyscalculia is certainly less understood and has less resources than Dyslexia. Steve Chinn has a range of books and resources. http://www.stevechinn.co.uk
Ronit Bird has a range of books and some free resources. This is a list of 10 tips for parents. http://www.ronitbird.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/toptentips.pdf
Maths No Problem https://mathsnoproblem.com/en/blog/
Judy Hornigold. Judy Hornigold will be running a 2 day worshop this year in Sydney Brough to you by SPELD NSW https://speldnsw.org.au/event/dyscalculia-and-maths-interventions-2-day-pd-with-judy-hornigold/. I attended her one day SPELD worshop last year and it was excellent. http://www.judyhornigold.co.uk/dyscalculia.html
Maths Fact Sheet https://www.dropbox.com/s/a7cosgpdc2oto4v/Math%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf?dl=0
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