Dyscalculia ToolKit For Families

Parent Guide
For Parents & Students
5 minute read

Dyscalculia refers to a range of struggles with mathematics that include difficulties understanding the meaning of numbers and challenges using mathematical principles to solve math problems. This might cause some children to have trouble recognizing numbers, delays in counting, challenges with patterns and numbering, etc. We’ve put together several resources available for families and students which can help with day to day tasks and productivity for work and school.

Incorporate Manipulatives

One of the best things to help a child or teen with dyscalculia is providing them with a hands-on learning experience as they tackle math challenges. Being able to use touch and sight through items such as dominoes, counters (think teddy bears), Unifix cubes, Legos, blocks, etc. can bring mathematical concepts such as addition, subtraction, patterns, grouping, etc. to life. Work with your child’s teacher to see what items are available at home and school. Additionally, you can find some great “make at home” examples on the Internet.

Use Visuals

Similar to manipulatives, utilizing visuals can help activate different parts of the brain during math instruction. Flashcards, posters, clocks, number lines, etc. can all benefit your child as those with dyscalculia can have increased difficulty with recognizing numbers and other visual patterns. The good news is there are plenty of ways to create visuals at home or utilize household objects (measuring cups, counting books, using different colored objects, etc.).

Consider Text-To-Speech Software

When people think of text-to-speech software, they often associate it with students who struggle with dyslexia. However, it can benefit children and teens with dyscalculia as well. Not only can it help with reading problems (especially extended word problems), but it’s not uncommon to see students struggle with both dyscalculia and dyslexia.

Try Out Different Tools

There are a range of different tools (calculator, abacus, graph paper, etc.) available to help your child with various math tasks. Figuring out when and how each tool benefits your child might take some time and conversations with your child’s teachers and tutors, but with patience and trial and error, you will be able to figure out which works best for what and add those to your family’s toolkit.

Pre-Teach Math Vocabulary

Taking time to make sure your child or teen understands what math vocabulary terms mean can really help them be successful as new concepts are taught. Math and other subject areas are filled with content-specific vocabulary that can stand in the way of ultimate success. For example, instead of expecting your child to automatically understand what “add” means, use visual tools and synonyms to demonstrate and break down the word.

Focus on Conceptual Understanding

Similar to vocabulary instruction, breaking down math skills conceptually can improve students' understanding and comprehension. For many of us growing up, we learned that 5 x 7 was 35 based on memorization. For children, especially those with dyscalculia, memorizing facts without understanding what is meant, can inhibit them when learning more advanced concepts. Demonstrating that 5 x 7 means “5 groups of 7” with visuals takes it beyond rote memorization that will be beneficial as they move to higher levels of mathematics.

Utilize Growth Mindset

Math is hard. It requires a combination of memorization, problem-solving, perseverance, and conceptual understanding. Frustration can build easily if children feel the need to be perfect. By utilizing a growth mindset and demonstrating the strengths of trial and error, getting problems wrong and how that helps the math brain grow, children can shift their thinking and realize that perfection is not the end-goal.

Find a Specialist

If you have tried multiple interventions, accommodations, and strategies, but still find your child struggling on a daily basis, consider finding a tutor or learning specialist who has experience and expertise with dyscalculia. Most likely your child’s school will have a list of trusted providers they can recommend.

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