5 great ways to help students with dyscalculia

5 great ways to help students with dyscalculia

There are some basic skills and knowledge that we need for life.  Mathematics is most definitely one of them.  Being able to do simple math operations without having to scramble to find a calculator can help make our lives a whole lot easier.  Additionally, math helps us build problem solving and logic skills to take on everyday challenges.  It truly is one of the most necessary subjects we need to pay attention to in school; even if you are not considering a profession in Engineering, Science, or anything that is remotely dependent on numbers and figures math is essential.  But, what happens when a child has been diagnosed with dyscalculia and it’s clear he or she will have constant struggles understanding mathematical concepts?  Is the child doomed to a life of failure?  Not at all.  There are a number of different strategies caregivers and educators can apply to help children with dyscalculia.

  1.    Identify the biggest weaknesses

This is crucial to developing a long-term strategy that will ultimately help a child throughout life.  It’s important to remember that learning disorders are not standard across the board.  The extent of it is unique to every child.  After receiving the initial diagnosis parents and teachers can set up a series of exercises that will allow them to notice and pinpoint exactly which mathematical concepts are more difficult to handle and therefore require more attention.  As mathematical concepts change as the child progresses in school, this is a task that should be carried out at different moments of the school year.

  1.    Break it all down into bite-sized pieces at home

This is one skill parents are exceptional at, especially during dinner time.  When parents are teaching their children how to eat properly, they are likely to cut up meat into pieces small enough for their children to be able to eat.  Parents understand that children need the smaller portions and this is how they can approach math assignments.  This is a sort of approach that can be extremely useful when helping children complete math homework.  Breaking down an equation let’s children identify each part at a pace they can handle and assimilate.

  1.    Use your surroundings

Another thing both parents and teachers can do is associate the math to the real world.  For example, if the student is having trouble solving the written equation “2 x 3” the teacher can ask his or her pupil to bring two books from one part of the classroom, another two from a different part, and two more from an additional place.  Then, he or she can ask the student to place each pair side by side.  Finally, the teacher can ask how many books are there in all.  When the child finishes counting he or she will notice that 2 x 3 is in fact 6.  Another way to go about the equation in the example is to color code it so that the child associates the parts of the equation with a certain color.  In other words, teachers can take a book from Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory and try to find out which is the student’s dominant intelligence.  This is the silver lining of learning disorders; they often help teachers identify the best way to reach a student.

  1.    Seek extracurricular help

Parents can only go so far with the above strategies.  They will probably have the need to look into hiring someone who is more competent in helping children deal with and in some measure overcome learning disorders.  The key to finding the right tutor lies in the person’s academic background and experience.  Parents should find teachers with experience in

  •         special education,
  •         educational therapy,
  •         math teachers who have taught students with dyscalculia (these kinds of teachers may not necessarily have a special education degree but their experience will most definitely help)
  •         teachers or professionals with experience in Stern Structural Arithmetic.
Image courtesy of Marco Nedermeijer at Flickr.com
Image courtesy of Marco Nedermeijer at Flickr.com
  1.    Parents and teachers must work in tandem

It’s important for parents and teachers to work together to make sure a student has a bright future and that he or she will be able to handle math.  Working together gives a child some much-needed structure.  This partnership is surely going to last for as long as the child is in school (from the moment the child is diagnosed until he or she graduates).

Finally, before implementing any strategy it’s crucial that a child understands that having a learning disorder is not the end of the world and that it can be handled to the point that he or she can lead a full life.  The Dwyer Family Foundation has expressed the importance of helping a child cope with a learning disorder in the past and this is the first step parents and teachers must take if the truly want to help.  Coping gives us the confidence to face a disorder head on and it allows us to concentrate on a plan of attack to overcome any learning obstacles.  

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