Quick facts about math dyslexia
Math dyslexia or 'dyscalculia' is a specific learning disability characterized by an extreme difficulty performing mathematical operations.
While there is no universally agreed upon definition, according to the American Psychiatric Association, the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual V (2012) a diagnosis of a Specific Learning Disorder requires:
"persistent difficulties in reading, writing, arithmetic, or mathematical reasoning skills during formal years of schooling. Symptoms may include inaccurate or slow and effortful reading, poor written expression that lacks clarity, difficulties remembering number facts, or inaccurate mathematical reasoning.
Current academic skills must be well below the average range of scores in culturally and linguistically appropriate tests of reading, writing, or mathematics. The individual’s difficulties must not be better explained by developmental, neurological, sensory (vision or hearing), or motor disorders and must significantly interfere with academic achievement, occupational performance, or activities of daily living."
Below is a short list of symptoms, some of which can appear prior to grade school:
Successful treatment for math dyslexia is not as well researched as that for dyslexia itself, but from what we know, the treatments that do work share similar qualities with those that work for dyslexia proper. For example, intensive, structured, multisensory cognitive approaches have been shown to help. By accessing information from many senses in a systematic way, students have a greater opportunity to retain and apply the learning, compensating for any single disability.
Some helpful videos demonstrating multisensory approaches created by Christopher Woodin, Math Department Chairman from Landmark Elementary & Middle School in Massachusetts can be found at the bottom of this page.
Computer software is finally catching up to the best pen and paper reading and math programs. When properly designed software offers a number of advantages over traditional systems including:
Deciding which software application to use can be overwhelming since there are dozens available for teaching any mathematical concept, but not all are appropriate for children with learning disabilities.
One application we've been impressed with is Nessy Numbers from Nessy Learning which teaches mathematical strategies using a colorful interactive game format, highly motivating for children who struggle with math. Specifically the software teaches multiplication and how to read an analog clock, which involves basic addition and subtraction.
There are many other math tools but be sure to investigate carefully to see if the software was designed for students who struggle with math, otherwise frustration and lost confidence may result.
The first video demonstrates the use of gross motor skills to help in the memorizing of a sequence of 'steps' in long division.
The second video demonstrates the use of icons and color.
The third video demonstrates the use of imagery
The fourth video demonstrates the use of touch.
Dyslexia and difficulty in math often go hand in hand, but through application of proper teaching technique and the use of the latest software the potential for learning math has never been greater.
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