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Strategies for teaching a student with a math-related learning disability

It isn’t unusual for a child to struggle with math homework from time to time. However, when a child or an adult faces constant problems with numbers and math tests while doing well in other non-math related areas, it might be a sign they have a math-related learning disability: Dyscalculia. Dyscalculia affects approximately 7% of students and is often associated with ADHC, which can significantly affect learning behaviour and performance. Nevertheless, teaching a student with LDs can be hugely rewarding as you can help them memorise, understand, and use maths concepts effectively.

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Easy memorisation tips for math-related learning disability

When teaching students with LDs, it is important to simplify the learning process. Memorisation can be difficult and slow at first when the learning difficulty leads to confusion. For instance, someone with dyscalculia may not be able to tell whether 6 is smaller than 8 because they have issues understanding the meaning of numbers. Therefore, it can prevent students from effectively processing and recording new concepts to memory. Teachers need to assign a manageable memorisation load and progress as skills are acquired to avoid learning confusion.

Teachers need to reduce processing overload by establishing the base component skills for each math concept. Indeed, encouraging students to use pre-existing skills as they approach a new concept can be helpful. The process enhances memorisation and boosts the confidence of students with LDs.

It is beneficial to reinforce memorisation by introducing review exercises within a few days of learning new skills. The approach can anchor the skills safely.

Teaching a student with LDs to extrapolate

Math-related learning difficulty makes math concepts difficult to grasp. But teachers can introduce real-life situations to make math concepts more approachable and meaningful. Relevant and practical everyday examples can significantly ease comprehension for students with LDs.

The exercise can also help students practice critical thinking as they develop their problem-solving skills in a safe environment. For students, it is the opportunity to build confidence. As math finds a purpose in real-life, it can also become less daunting for students with learning disabilities.

Math-related learning disability students need visual clarity

It becomes essential to help students untangle some of the patterns that tend to lead to confusion. Therefore, math teaching needs to prioritise visual clarity.

Indeed, a cluttered page or worksheets with multiple math symbols can increase anxiety and problems. Students with LDs can benefit greatly from a clear presentation to streamline the visual process. Teachers can also encourage students to maintain alignment when they write numbers, as it will reduce the risk of number confusion. For example, doing math problems on a lined paper such as graph paper can maintain visual clarity throughout the lesson.

It can also be an opportunity for teachers to spot and correct frequent dyscalculia triggers, such as the following misrules:

  • miswriting or misreading numbers
  • using the same sheet of paper for multiple tasks
  • repeating incorrect math assumptions

Maximise assistive technology in teaching a student with LDs

Students with a math-related learning disability find it hard to associate written word numbers with their digit forms. As a result, they often struggle to order numbers, quantify and compare numbers, and understand number-based problems such as:

  • fractions;
  • graphs;
  • charts;
  • basic arithmetics (addition, subtraction, and multiplication).

Teachers and parents can help students make sense of numbers through assistive technology and techniques that can diversify the teaching support.

Some of the preferred techniques can include:

  • Visualising math concepts through drawing. This approach is effective for students who struggle with fractions and charts, for instance. Indeed, they can use drawing to display the information in a more manageable format.
  • Using teaching materials to diversify audio and visual clues, such as calculator screens or tape recorders, can also help students to manipulate and master new skills and concepts.
  • Online platforms designed specifically with students with LDs in mind can also provide the format variety and manipulation exercises required for effective learning.
  • Gamification can also play a huge role in making math not only more accessible but also enjoyable. A student with math-related learning difficulties often experiences high stress in connection with math. Therefore, introducing age-appropriate games can prove motivational and positive.

In conclusion, math-related learning difficulty does not have to prevent students from building up new skills. With tailored support to make math concepts more digestible and manageable, teachers and parents can help students gain confidence. When it comes to learning disabilities, experts agree that the best approach is to create a safe teaching environment that empowers students to overcome their challenges.

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