Aug 022013

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Q: My child struggles with writing and math. He has trouble remembering symbols. He can read, but I am wondering if he has dyslexia. Is it possible that he has dyslexia that affects his math? Can you recommend a curriculum for math?


It actually sounds like your son has a disability that is a modified form of dyslexia called dyscalculia (spelled by some as discalculia).  People sometimes call it “math dyslexia.” 

Since your child is already reading and primarily struggles with Math, he probably has dyscalculia. It’s less likely that he has dyslexia.  However, you would need a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation for learning disabilities to determine the extent of your child’s learning disabilities. An evaluation can identify different forms of dyslexia.

Your child may have what is known as “stealth dyslexia.” This form of dyslexia often doesn’t show up until higher level reading skills are needed. Your child may also have “math dyslexia,” called dyscalculia, or may have other learning disabilities. You just really won’t know what your child’s disabilities are until you have a comprehensive evaluation.

Curricula Options for “Math Dyslexia,” Dyscalculia (or Discalculia)

There are a lot of great curricula specifically for helping children who struggle with math, especially those with dyscalculia.  Check out Math Curriculum for Dyscalculia and Homeschooling for a variety of information that may help you teach your child. Specifically, looking at the list of Math Curriculum for Dyscalculia : More than 15 Choices is likely to be helpful for you.

We had good success with Math-U-See and ETA Hand2mind (Formerly Cuisenaire Rods). My child went from having difficulty remembering any math facts, to being a relative Math whiz, on grade level, and ultimately ended up taking and passing calculus in college.

Math fact Memorization with “Math Dyslexia,” Dyscalculia (or Discalculia)

For Math fact memorization our neuropsychologist recommended using a ‘self-regulating’ memory system for memorizing math facts.  This system worked very well for our guy along with Math-U-See and ETA Hand2mind (Formerly Cuisenaire Rods).

For the Math Fact Memorization, put each math fact on an index card by writing the math problem on one side of the card, and the answer on the other side (for example, 9×5 on one side and 45 on the other side). You may prefer to purchase a set of ready made math fact flash cards, which are available in large sets with addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Your child then drills himself daily. He reads the problem out loud.. “Nine times five is ____.” If he can fluently say, “Nine times five is forty-five”, he flips the card over to verify he is correct and puts the card in an “I know it” pile.

If your child hesitates while trying to recall the answer, he turns the card over, reads the answer out loud, then puts it at the back of the deck in his hand.

Your child will begin with one set of math facts.  By starting with a few cards, the cards will cycle through fast enough that the child will eventually be able to remember some of what he JUST read.  As he eliminates the cards containing facts he knows, the facts he doesn’t know will come up more rapidly.  Eventually your child will have one card in his hand.  He can read the problem, see the answer, then flip the card over again and read the math problem.  Hopefully your child can answer the question now because there will be virtually NO delay.

After all facts in one set are mastered, you add another set of math facts. We did our facts in this order x0, x1, x10, x11, x2, x5, x3, x4, x6, x7, x8, x9, x12. After we had about five sets of facts, I’d pull out the earliest set and have my child keep about 5 sets going.

This system worked extremely well for my son who had memory deficits. By letting your child man the cards his self.. HE can:

1) take responsibility for his own learning
2) regulate how much time he gives himself to think of the answer and
3) review if he doesn’t know the answer —

Plus, as time goes on, your child will develop his own internal means of figuring out how to remember things which is the BIG key to long-term success. If your child does have dyscalculia, you will want to familiarize yourself with the types of instruction which will help your child. I’d highly recommend reading several of the books about dyscalculia which are available on AmazonMath Dyslexia Dyscalculia Discalculia.

Hope that helps!

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