Is your dyslexic child struggling with math? Here are some tips to help you teach math to your students with dyslexia – so it sticks.

 

I am often asked how to teach dyslexic kids math facts so that they stick.

Although the term ‘dyslexia’ refers to an inability to read (dis = poor or inadequate and  lexia = words or language), it effects other areas of study as well.

Math is an interesting subject in that it requires conceptual, logical and spatial reasoning – all areas in which the dyslexic, right-brained thinker excels.  Math also requires neatness, exactness and efficient computation skills – areas in which the dyslexic, right-brained thinker struggles.

Conceptually, these kids understand math which is a good thing.  One of the hallmark signs of dyslexia is an above-average intelligence with an accompanying {and perplexing} struggle to learn certain subjects.  Rote memorization of math facts is one of these areas.  I have good news!  Just as with mastering reading, our kids can master their math facts by tapping into their highly visual brains and using some creative methods geared for their unique style of learning.  They can also learn how to organize their thinking and their written work so that longer computations don’t become half day marathon of tears and frustration.

Teaching Math Concepts

Adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, fractions and decimals.  These mathematical concepts require a certain amount of mature reasoning to understand.  When teaching a kindergartener to understand the concept of numbers, we start by linking the concept to something real.   As he begins to learn to count by touching and manipulating objects, the concept of numbers, their symbols and their meaning become clear, or concrete.

So with the older child, getting their hands on objects so that they can understand math concepts is critical for building the understanding of why that is so important in the right-brained child’s learning style.  One of the best curriculums for teaching math to a dyslexic, visual learner is Math-U-See.  From adding and subtracting to fractions and decimals, the program comes with manipulatives that illustrate the concept being learned.  By building the problem with the manipulatives, saying the equation and then writing the problem, the student is using three modes of learning;  kinesthetic, auditory and visual.  The strategy in our home has always been that the child builds the problem with the manipulatives every time until the concept becomes clear and they are no longer needed.  This takes longer for some kids than for others.  No big deal – it is how they learn.

 

Mastering Math Facts

This leads me to the question you all have been waiting for… how to get those math facts to stick?!

We all remember those timed math fact tests with a sheet of tiny math problems that we were to solve them as fast as we could – proving our level of mastery.  Torture for a dyslexic learner.

Why?  Because the dyslexic brain struggles with low working memory.  If you have taught a dyslexic child for any length of time, you know what I am talking about.  You teach the concept one day.  They seem to have a pretty good handle on it.  You revisit the same concept the next day and it is as if you are teaching it for the first time!  What?  How can you not remember?  We have been over this – insert some exaggeratedly large number here – times!  Rote memorization is not a strength of the dyslexic mind.  So how do we help them master their math facts?

Tap into visual strengths

Use manipulatives, even everyday items or a packaged curriculum like Math U See and get your kids touching and experiencing math.  Let your kids see the patterns of skip counting by 2s, 5s, 10s by building with math blocks or shading a 100s chart.  Let them touch and experience math concepts.  Once they understand the why, the rest will fall into place.   A quick online search will yield lots of hands-on math ideas.  Another visual strategy is using images for remembering math facts.  Citycreek products are visually based and offers times tables and addition programs using pictures, stories, and songs.  Perfect for the highly visual learner.

learn math facts

 

Use music or songs

All of my junior high and high school students have developed compensation skills for being able to access math facts during longer computations.  One of the {surprisingly} most used methods they used was one that they learned in 1st and 2nd grades.  Skip counting.  They initially learned these by listening to a very cute skip counting CD put out by Math U See.  Though they have mastered most of their facts by 8th grade {long division will force them!} they can always access that auditory memory of skip counting to find an answer.  On a side note:  we have learned many facts from other subjects through song.  Geography, science, grammar and history are just a few examples. 

 

What about when they haven’t mastered their math facts and their curriculum is moving ahead anyway?

This is highly anecdotal without any research to back it up except for my own family of dyslexic learners.  In our homeschool, we are mastery based.  No one moves on unless they have mastered the material.  However, if a child conceptually understands the math problem but struggles {it takes them waaaaay too long to complete the daily assignment} because of slow computational skills, I give them a chart of the math facts, let them look at it and get on with that long division!  Cheating, you say?  If a child in our home does not know their math facts well, they have to choose one method of practice each day and practice them for 10 -15 minutes until they no longer need the ‘cheat sheet’.

Resources for teaching math facts to a highly visual, dyslexic learner

Finally, before this post becomes an Ultimate Listhere are some resources that we recommend:

Math U See 

Math curriculum for K-12.  Teaches the ‘why’ of math using manipulatives.

City Creek

City Creek products are visually based and offers times tables and addition programs using pictures, stories, and songs.

Times Tales

Teaches math facts by creating silly (and memorable) stories with the numbers as the characters.  Downloadable or DVD based video options available.  Our kids love this program!

Math It

Hands-on teaching tool that teaches strategies for figuring out math facts.

Sing ‘n Learn

Web site full of audio resources for use in all subjects.

Helpful Web Sites:

Dianne Craft

Dianne Craft has lots of ideas and suggestions for teaching right-brain learners.

Chris Woodin – Landmark School

Chris Woodin has a lot of hands-on ideas for understanding math concepts.  Lots of information on math and the right brain learner.

Donna Young

Lots of free, printable math sheets.

Kahn Academy

Millions, yes millions, of educational videos on every subject from Math and Science to Computer Science and Test Prep.  Excellent resource for when kids don’t get it.

And of course, after 3rd grade, we love Teaching Textbooks for math.  Read my complete review by clicking the image below:

Get Educated

If you are looking to get educated about dyslexia and how to educate, encourage and empower your kids with dyslexia, you have come to the right place.

For more information on getting started homeschooling your child with dyslexia, consider downloading my free ebook that covers things like understanding learning styles and teaching methods, how to create a positive learning environment and schedule, or how to set goals and get it all done.

For more information on specific strategies to teach your dyslexic child the way he or she learns, consider taking one of our Parent Dyslexia Classes.  Classes now available are:

Understanding Dyslexia

Teaching Them How They Learn

Teaching Reading:  Methods That Work

Teaching Spelling

Building Fluency and Comprehension

Or buy all 5 classes in our Foundation Bundle and receive a free download of my book, Dyslexia 101:  Truths, Myths and What Really Works.  Visit our Parent Dyslexia Class page for more information.

Is your dyslexic child struggling with math? Here are some tips to help you teach math to your students with dyslexia - so it sticks.