In the vast pool of numbers, logics, symbols and equations, it’s a common scenario where even the brightest struggle in maths at some point. For students with dyscalculia, this could be a recurring nightmare. Even in students with reading difficulty, like dyslexia, understanding mathematics can be challenging as it involves symbols, complex words, concepts (e.g., square root, rational numbers) and facts. Spatial reasoning, word problems, proper visualization of numbers and concepts are some of the common field of struggle of dyslexic students in classroom.
Fortunately, As a result of Section 504 of Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (To correct the problem of discrimination against people with mental or physical disabilities), a child with documented diagnosis of the disability is entitled to accommodations that will ensure their success academically. Under 504 plan, a student with dyslexia may have following math specific accommodations in classroom
Practicing mental math is important but this skill set ends up nowhere if basic concepts aren’t clear. Using calculator in classroom is considered unfair and generally frowned upon. In reality, calculators are helpful in understanding the concepts faster as students could focus more on steps involved in the concept to arrive at the final answer. It allows dyslexic students to access higher levels of math problem solving.
#4 Graph paper
A major portion of errors committed in writing generally involves lining up numbers and words properly. A ‘3’ may be facing east at place and west at the other. Similarly, ‘1’ may be erected diagonally at places or even above other numbers. Proper alignment of the numbers to form up the question is important to understand it better through visualization. Graph papers can serve this purpose pretty well. Allowing to use graph paper instead of regular math notebook paper will help students have clear and organized visuals of the problem. Matrices of boxes in the graph paper constraints the individual numbers, symbols and operators and improves their understanding of how the concept works.
#3 Number Lines
Teachers must highlight the importance of Number Lines to students by providing means of practicing it on daily basis interactively. Number Line forms a model of teaching four basic operations of all rational numbers. Furthermore, Number Lines help in visualizing different mathematical concepts, such as fractions, which makes it easier to understand.
A routine activity must be followed on daily basis to build a strong number sense in early years of learning. One such interesting activity is ‘Number Line Stops’. Here is how to do it:-
Draw number line on board of any two numbers such as there 9 stops in between. For beginning, take 1 to 10 with each number written at the corresponding stop. Arrange 10 students in line and name them similar to the numbers on board. Practice some question with students like, Where does this number go on our number line? How do you know?, How many between numbers are there between Tim and John? If we remove so and so, how many numbers left? Where is the half value, 1/3rd, 1/4th, 2/3rd and etc. ?
Level up the challenge after each iteration. Try some 2 or 3 digits numbers, or 2 digits with a difference of 20, 25…50 and so on. When you realize students are confident with whole numbers, jump to decimals and fraction values like 1.1, 1.2…1.9 between 1 and 2.
#2 Math Manipulatives
Teachers may take the help of math related manipulatives, like blocks, coins and puzzles, to educate students with dyslexia about the concepts of math better. Manipulatives provide an interactive way of learning the subject.
When students explore with manipulatives, they have the opportunity to see mathematical relationships. They have tactile and visual models that help develop their understanding. Using concrete objects for practicing math concepts provide more in depth engagement and interest of the students in the subject.
#1 Math Fact Charts
Memorizing and recalling facts can pose hindrance in the pace of learning concepts of the subject. While this is essential, it shouldn’t become a barrier to learning advanced math concepts. Hence, Dyslexic students must be allowed to use desk copies of math fact sheets or charts (for example, a multiplication table fact sheet that can be kept on the desk when needed) to help compensate for memory difficulties. This way we could ensure that they share the same opportunity of learning the subject with other students without getting stuck at learning facts curriculum of the class.