If you change the name, is this a familiar scenario at your house?
“Jessica, you’re so careless. You do this all the time. Look, you failed the test because you added when you were supposed to subtract. Didn’t you see the minus sign? Then you multiplied 6×7 and put 40. You even wrote 54 instead of 31 when you recopied your answer onto the next page. What’s wrong with you?”
Jessica isn’t really careless. She’s got classic dyscalculia symptoms, a math disorder. Unfortunately, characteristics of dyscalculia are often not picked up as being a math disorder. Kids with dyscalculia are usually diagnosed as being carelessness, unfocused and going too fast. It’s exactly what happened to Jessica.
Math is frustrating for many children. Whether it is due to having trouble remembering the number facts, multiplication tables, understanding concepts, or any of a large number of other issues, many children experience difficulty with both computation and application.
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These children may have dyscalculia. Researchers believe this involves the visual and language processing portions of the brain. Evidence suggests that the causes may be genetic or environmental such as prenatal or environmental toxins like lead paint.
A reassuring note is that it’s not uncommon for the weakness to be in a specific area or skill, which, if compensated for, allows these students to operate at or above the level of their peers.
Symptoms of Dyscalculia:• Avoidance of math work.
• Inability to keep numbers in columns.
• Confusion with math concepts.
• Difficulty with word problems.
• Crying while doing math homework.
• Switching to addition while doing a subtraction problem
or visa versa.
• Forgetting addition facts and the multiplication tables.
• Difficulty remembering math steps.
• Changing the sequence of numerals when copying them.
How to Help Children With Dyscalculia: Seven Tips
1. Use Lined paper. If your child has trouble keeping numbers in columns, show her how to turn lined paper sideways so the lines become vertical guides. Or, encourage her to use graph paper to keep columns of numbers lined up.
2. Cover up columns. Have your child cover up all columns except those he’s working on.
3. Use a calculator when appropriate. If a child is being tested for concepts and understanding and has difficulty with computation, have him use a calculator for those tests or assignments.
4. Circle signs. Suggest that your child circle the + , –, or other arithmetic signs before doing the computation.
5. Color-code. Color-code fact families and multiplication facts for your young child. For example you could write or color 2+3=5, 3+2=5, 5-2=3, 5-3=2 in green, and 3+4=7, 4+3=7, 7-3=4, 7-4=3 in blue.
6. Write what you want. When your child is working on a word problem, tell her to write down the information and what she’s trying to solve for. Encourage her to use whatever method works best for that task such as making a list, drawing, or underlining.
7. Sub-vocalize. Suggest to your child that she talk to herself out loud or sub-vocalize.
Kids with dyscalculia can master math, but they need help. Talk to your child’s teacher and find out if she’s familiar with dyscalculia symptoms. Find out what resources are available at her school. Your child can enjoy success at school, even in math.
Do you have arithmetic challenges at your house? Do you have any tips that have helped. We’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comment below.
There are always ways to learn math, to have fun and to show the student that progress is being made. Grab a copy of our Dyscalculia Toolkit: How Singing, Playing Games and Having Fun can help defeat math disabilities.
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