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How to Help Children with Dyscalculia

By Elise Wile ; Updated June 13, 2017

Students who have dyscalculia often have trouble with the simplest math problems. They have difficulty understanding basic mathematical concepts and lack an intuitive sense of how numbers work. Learning mathematical procedures can be quite challenging for them. This disability can result in a student learning to dislike math and avoiding it whenever possible. Teachers can help students with dyscalculia to become proficient at mathematical tasks and give them the confidence they need to become confident math learners by providing these students with appropriate accommodations and modifications.

  1. Use graph paper to help students be aware of where numbers are supposed to be. This will help eliminate errors made by not lining up vertical math problems properly. Make sure that the grid on the graph paper is large enough so that students do not have to crowd the numbers together.

  2. Ask students to read math problems out loud, even if they aren’t word problems. For example, for 56(10 + 2), a student could say, “Fifty-six multiplied by ten plus two.” Although this works best for relatively simple problems at the elementary level, students in more advanced classes can be encouraged to use the language of math to verbalize the process, as auditory comprehension may be a strength.

  3. Provide students with additional input to go along with the math problems they are trying to solve. Ask students to draw pictures that represent a particular equation. Get students involved physically by drawing a number line on the floor and having them walk out a problem. Relate the problem to a real-life situation that students are familiar with. Ask students to work with manipulatives in order to solve problems. These strategies will benefit the entire class in addition to assisting students with dyscalculia.

  4. Teach students manageable amounts of information by giving them time to practice each step before they must implement all of the steps together. For example, if you are teaching how to add with fractions, give students plenty of practice finding common denominators first. Only when students have mastered that skill should they move on to a mathematical problem that incorporates that skill.

  5. Allow students with dyscalculia to use calculators when doing multi-step problems. This will allow them to demonstrate that they understand the process without becoming sidetracked by difficulties with basic computational skills.

  6. Tip

    Ask for assistance from a special education inclusion teacher if a student with dyscalculia is in danger of falling significantly behind the class.

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