Math Disability

Difficulty With Math? Perhaps You Have Discalculia....

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"Dyscalculia" refers to the difficulties one experiences when performing math calculations. When referring to language difficulties, the term Dyslexia is used. However, for math the term Discalculia is used. Essentially, math discalculia is a learning disability for mathematical or arithmetic concepts. The rules for special education and discalculia will vary from state to state. Typically a student must be experiencing significant difficulties that are specific to math before a special education diagnosis will be made which will then often enable them receive special education support in the way of accommodations or modifications.

Currently, there is no clear cut diagnostic test or clearly defined criteria that is used to defined discalculia. Students with discalculia often are not diagnosed in the public school system due the the lack of a measurable framework or criteria.

Why do some people have discalculia?

For the most part, people experiencing math difficulties (discalculia) often have a form of visual processing difficulties. In some cases, difficulties in math stem from sequencing difficulties, math requires on a set of procedures that must be followed in a sequential manner, this too can relate to memory deficits. Those experiencing difficulty remembering things will have difficulty remembering the order of operations to be followed or the specific sequence of steps to be taken to solve a math problem. Lastly, difficulties in math are often related to a form of math phobia. This often stems from the belief that one 'cannot do math'.

This will stem from some negative experiences in the past or is often due to a lack of confidence. We know all too well, that a postive attitude leads to better performance.

What Can Be Done?

  • Provide lots of concrete manipulatives to ensure understanding takes place before moving into the abstract concepts. This too will assist to provide strategies to visualize. When working on problem solving or word problems, provide opportunties to use real life situations or items to assist with visualization.
  • Provide opportunities to use 'pictures, words or graphs' to help with understanding. Relate all problems to a real-life situation as much as possible.
  • Promote a 'can do' attitude as much as possible. NEVER say, "I was no good at math so it's no wonder you aren't good at it". Remember, with the right situations (tutoring, one to one support) and a positive attitude, everyone can do math!
  • Use a fun approach for the basics. Card and computer games for mastery of the basic facts to 20 and the multiplication tables work well. 10 minutes a day can work wonders.
  • Provide help with the learning of math symbols and the language of math. For instance, think about this symbol: -

    It can mean to subtract, it can be the fraction symbol, it can refer to a negative integer.

    Ensure that understanding is in place for all mathematical symbols.