REVIEWED BY NUMBERDYSLEXIA’S EXPERT PANEL ON AUGUST 17, 2022
The fast-paced and competitive learning environment has made students struggle with excelling at all concepts such as complex derivations, thousands of formulas, and complicated word problems. For students with dyscalculia with underlying deficits in number sense and counting, it can become troublesome to cope with their academics.
Difficulties in visual sequential memory, identification and interpretation of symbols, and understanding number sense are some of the areas that perplex these students.
Due to the recognition of the needs of children with learning disabilities, they are provided accommodations in their learning environment such as classrooms, schools, and examinations.
In this post, we will dig deeper and talk about the various accommodations for students with dyscalculia, and also mention ways to how they can avail of those.
Do students with dyscalculia need accommodations?
Numerical skills, number sense, and quantitative comprehension are not only a major part of the academic and career aspect of a student’s life but also are essential in everyday life. The dysfunctional development of number processing and calculation can have a negative impact on schooling as well as professional careers. Approximately 3 to 6% of children are affected by specific disorders of numerical understanding. This creates a need for schools to create accommodations and modifications to their classrooms and learning methods to make room for children with difficulties and aid them in their adjustment.
Dyscalculia is a neurological deficit and is a result of impairments in brain functions and abnormal brain activities most associated with the parietal cortex that affect memory, perceptual, spatial, and motor functions along with difficulties in attention. These fundamental inabilities call for remediation and interventions that bridge the gap. These measures should be included in classrooms and schools that the students are placed in as those are the areas where their learning progresses.
Classroom accommodations for students with dyscalculia
1. Assigning buddies or partners to affected learners
Buddies or partners can help the students catch up on work regularly and aid them with their difficulties if it becomes hard for the teacher to pay special attention after a point. This will also give them moral support and someone they can go up to when they face problems. If the class strength is big, one buddy can be assigned to a group of 3-4 students.
2. Allowing the use of calculators in classrooms
Although the use of calculators to solve math problems is considered unfair and is generally restricted in the classroom, it can actually help children with difficulties in learning math and understanding number processing. With the help of a calculator, children can learn how an equation works and the steps of solving a question rather than getting stuck on counting and comprehending numbers.
3. Multisensory learning
Incorporating multisensory learning using senses like touch, vision, and audio to teach math concepts will make the process more stimulating and engaging for students. This will also minimize anxiety faced by children due to their difficulties and improve their confidence.
4. Visual and Concrete Aids
Math charts, graphs, abacus, number lines, and even sketched-out problems can help children get a better hang of the idea of what is going on. For instance, using number lines and graph papers in their initial years of learning can ease them into understanding number sense. Similarly, using coins, blocks and puzzles can aid in learning various math concepts.
5. Support and Expectations from the teacher
The teachers play a crucial role in classrooms especially when children with learning difficulties are placed in them. To accommodate these students, the teacher must keep in mind to break the lessons into simple parts and teach them step by step. The teachers should also make sure that students do not feel pressured to perform at the same level as their other peers.
6. Providing Special Educators and Individualized Educational Programs
Special educators who are qualified and have expertise in the specific disorder should be included as a part of the accommodations provided to students. They can play a vital role in providing aid to targeted deficits and impairments further making learning easier for the students. Providing an IEP to children who are eligible will significantly help them overcome their learning difficulties and be successful in their academics and career.
1. Extra Time to take the test
Even after developing coping strategies, students with difficulties in number processing put much more effort and time into comprehending the problem they are presented with. They also struggle more in doing the same and should be provided extra time to solve their test as compared to their peers.
2. Modified Tests
Tests in examinations should be developed and modified in accordance with the level of the students who have difficulties. They could do so by reducing the difficulty of the test as compared to the one for the general class or altering the way questions are presented. For example, problems could be presented in two ways- in words and in drawings, just like how it is done to include various languages.
3. Alternative ways of examination
Exams can be taken with the help of a reader or a support person who could explain the questions to the students. In addition to that, taking oral examinations could also be an option.
How to avail of these accommodations
All schools must provide accommodations under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, to eligible students. This is a part of one of the civil laws that offer protection to children with disabilities and their needs.
For certain accommodations that can be subjective to specific disabilities and cannot be backed by the law, reaching out to the authorities will be helpful. Schools and classrooms that include these children in regular classrooms do consider the special needs of students and provide aid like partners, special educators, counselors, interventions, and IEPs.
Teachers and parents should collectively identify the needs of the student and collaborate to develop accommodations that may or may not be provided by the authorities and are specific to the child. They can also meet the school and government administration bodies to outline and plan the same. It is the right of every child to be educated and in today’s resourceful world, children should be provided with the best support in their academics.
A good education is the right of every child. Students with learning difficulties such as dyscalculia can have a hard time coping with their academics given the various deficits they struggle with. School, classroom, and examination accommodations are a way of helping the children ease into their educational environments and complement their special needs.
These may include special support by teachers or other peers, allowing certain helpful devices inside the classroom, and modified curriculums and tests. IEPs and special educators also aid in improvements in the learning of students. With the help of accommodations, even specific learning disorders such as dyscalculia can be supported and alleviated for students to succeed in their learning and growth.