Many people are familiar with learning disabilities that make it hard for a child to read, comprehend what they are reading, or write. These disabilities make it a struggle for kids to process the letters and words that make up the content they are reading. There is another type of learning disability that is specific to math, and instead of having a hard time processing and working with letters and words, these children struggle with working with numbers. This specific math related learning disability it called Dyscalculia, and sometimes can go untreated in school-aged kids, resulting in lower grades and a negative attitude towards math.
If your child is having a hard time in math, they may struggle with Dyscalculia. The good news is, there are plenty of tips, strategies and resources to help your child not only understand numbers and math concepts, but also to begin to enjoy math.
What is Dyscalculia?
Dyscalculia is used to describe a variety of learning disabilities in math related subjects. It is not a specific learning disability, and can affect different people in different ways. Some students may find it difficult to memorize basic math facts. Others may understand the reason and logic behind a problem, but are unable to carry out the solution. Others have the opposite problem: they know HOW to do the math but they can’t grasp the WHY.
What Are The Causes?
There is no definite reason or cause why some students struggle with numbers and others don’t. It has been reported that 6-7% of elementary aged students have some sort of dyscalculia. Research shows that genes and heredity, brain development, environment and certain types of brain injuries can be the cause for these types of learning disabilities. Babies born premature or with fetal alcohol syndrome are at a higher risk for math related learning disabilities.
How Do I Know If My Child Has Dyscalculia?
Depending on his/her age, students show signs for dyscalculia differently.
In primary students:
- Has trouble making the connection between number words and number symbols (For example, knowing the relationship between 8 and eight)
- Finds it hard to sort things by color, shapes and patterns
- Avoids playing games that involve counting and math concepts
In middle school students:
- Has a poor sense of direction, and left and right
- Has trouble understanding math phrases such as greater than and less than
- Has trouble understanding math symbols such as + and –
- May still use fingers to count
In high school students:
- Struggles with math concepts in every day life, such as telling time, estimating and working with money
- Has difficulty reading graphs and charts
- Has a hard time finding different ways to solve the same problem
- Has a poor sense of direction and worries about getting lost
- Has a hard time measuring things, such as ingredients when cooking.
How Can I Help My Child?
Tutors, parents and teachers can use certain techniques to help a student who strggles with a form of dyscalculia.
- When working with math, use real world examples that tie in with the child’s every day life. This will help them build a connection and understanding to the numbers they are working with
- Use visual aids and drawings to help students see what they are adding/subtracting/multiplying etc.
- Review a recently learned concept before moving onto new material. This will build the child’s confidence as well as help them refresh their foundation for the next concept.
- Use graph paper to keep numbers lined up
- Talk with your child’s teacher about a specialized learning plan (also called a 504 plan) that will help your child get the attention they need and will also provide modifications during test time such as not having a time limit or having fewer questions to answer
Kids who learn differently than other kids want to succeed and feel a sense of accomplishment in the classroom. School aged children are already in such a fragile emotional state, that falling behind or feeling discouraged or helpless in class can be detrimental to their self esteem. Adults who are educated on the strategies necessary for helping students with learning disabilities will make all the difference in the world to a kid who learns a little differently