By: Wyayn Rasmussen
October is National Learning Disabilities Awareness Month
The most common learning disabilities are dyslexia (reading), dyscalculia (math) and dysgraphia (writing). Read below for more information on dyscalculia.
Dyscalculia is a learning issue that affects kids’ ability to do math. It doesn’t just impact them at school. Dyscalculia can create difficulties in daily life. It’s not as well known or understood as dyslexia, but many believe it’s just as common. Dyscalculia is a co-morbid disorder often associated with Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism (www.dyscalculia.org/learning-disabilities/autism).
Students with dyscalculia have trouble with many aspects of math. They often don’t understand concepts like more vs. less or have an understanding of quantities. They may not understand that the numeral 4 is the same as the word four. These skills are known as number sense.
You may have heard people quip, “I’m just bad at math.” As a society, we seem to accept that math is ‘harder’ than reading, so it’s okay to admit, “I’m just not a math person” and then laugh about it. Some of these people may be struggling with dyscalculia.
A student with dyscalculia will struggle with basic arithmetic facts. But it’s not only with math facts. The student may struggle to tell you which of two numbers is the larger. Students may understand the logic behind math, but not how or when to apply what they know to solve math problems.
Students with dyscalculia often struggle with working memory. For example, they may have a hard time holding numbers in their head when working on multiple-step math problems.
Signs and Symptoms
- Using fingers to count out math solutions, long after peers have stopped using this method
- Trouble recalling basic math facts
- Confusing the signs: +, -, ÷ and x
- Difficulty linking numbers and symbols to amounts and directions
- Struggles with money (i.e. handing a cashier a fistful of bills and change rather than counting it out)
- Unable to tell time on an analog clock
- Difficulty knowing right from left
- Trouble with recognizing patterns and sequencing numbers
Today’s requirements for graduating high school include 4 full credits of high school mathematics and passing qualifying exams in algebra and geometry. For students with an undiagnosed and untreated math disability, this is comparable to requiring colorblind students to identify colors of the rainbow.
Meeting graduation requirements for math in high school is dependent upon students staying on target from early elementary on. For this to occur, students who are severely behind in math need to be identified for special services as soon as possible. Unfortunately, math learning disabilities are seldom identified at any stage in a student’s education.
Math worksheets are not the best way to help a student with dyscalculia. Students need a hands-on approach to learning math skills. After determining a student’s needs, an AOWL special education teacher will develop a plan to target them. The lessons are tailored to the individual needs of the student, finding the gaps in understanding that need to be filled and focusing on any mathematical misconceptions he or she may have. By using hands-on learning which can include games that use concrete materials, like Legos, dice, money or dominoes, along with a multi-sensory approach, our teachers work to create a firm foundation on which to build more skills.
Early detection and intervention are key in helping students cope with dyscalculia. Academy of Whole Learning’s special education team of professionals can help diagnose and create a personalized learning path to break down and teach the foundational math skills necessary to be successful in high school, college, and life in general. For more information on Academy of Whole Learning, please visit our website: http://www.academyofwholelearning.org/