Dyscalculia is a condition that makes it hard to do math and tasks that involve math. It’s not as well known or as understood as dyslexia.
Dyslexia, as we have been defining throughout this guide, is a difficulty with fluency in word recognition and spelling among other things. However, dyslexia is not something that only affects the language domain, but can also affect math skills.
Before talking about dyslexia and math skills we should ask ourselves the following question, what are math skills? Mathematical skills are conceptualize as a separate area that include verbal components such as number knowledge, counting and reasoning, and non-verbal components, like math notation and reasoning in time and space.
These mathematical skills also require a series of skills such as memory, symbol recognition, and understanding of statements, among other things. All these aspects that are so necessary to master in order to have a correct understanding of mathematics are precisely the aspects in which students with dyslexia have difficulties. We will focus on them in further points.
DYSLEXIA VS DYSCALCULIA
When we talk about mathematics and dyslexia, sometimes the concept of dyscalculia arises, and it is often mistakenly understood as numerical dyslexia. Many people do not differentiate between the two concepts, however, it is necessary to separate the two.
When we talk about dyscalculia we refer to a severe deficit in the ability to process numerical information that results in a failure to develop fluent numerical skills. This problem is specific to arithmetic, (Reading and spelling skills are in normal range), numbers are not processed correctly and there are problems in working with them. Another definition isolated disability to perform simple or complex arithmetical operations and an impairment of orientation in the sequence of numbers and their fractions. Some studies associate this disorder to a great mathematical anxiety.
This dyscalculia presents mainly the following problems:
– Difficulty in the recognition of symbols
– Difficulty in pattern recognition
– Difficulty in memorizing rules and procedures.
– Difficulty in applying what has been learned to other aspects of mathematics.
Dyscalculia cannot be confused with dyslexia, however, students with dyscalculia may also have certain difficulties related to mathematical skills, due to their problems in differentiating words and their problem with short-term memory.
Some studies show that students with dyslexia in general are weak in certain aspects of mathematics. In some cases, students showed poor understanding and poor execution of certain mathematical problems, not necessarily because of poor mathematical ability, but because of a poor understanding of the statement. Having a big problem with reading, these students are not able to understand correctly what they should do in the problem and end up performing poorly.
DYSLEXIA AND DIFFICULTIES IN MATH
As mentioned above, dyslexia is often defined as an unexpected difficulty in reading, however dyslexic students may also have difficulty in mathematics even though they may understand aspects of mathematics to a high level. how can this be explained? both written and verbal, occur can also be helpful in predicting where math breakdowns might occur.
Math skills depend on many factors such as domain-specific knowledge (e.g., subitizing, counting, magnitude processing, basic number skills and fact retrieval), domain-general or higher cognitive skills (e.g., working memory, language, attention, visuospatial learning) and non-cognitive factors (e.g., motivation, math anxiety, environment) that also interact with one another.
Factors such as short-term and long-term memory are essential for good mathematical understanding and ability. A mathematical memory is an essential requirement to be good at mathematics. Good short-term memory is necessary for success in learning mathematics.
In many instances, students with dyslexia rely too much on consistency of work,in other words, they make heavy use of patterns and generalizations, so when faced with an inconsistency they cannot rely on memory to come up with the right answer. This also occurs with sequencing. Students with dyslexia get confused when things are not in order. Their mind is not able to process change and can result in math anxiety. We can see this for example in activities such as counting backwards.
This difficulty in mathematical skills is something we can consider quite problematic, as this skill is something that helps us predict future academic recognition, and as poor mathematical skills in children and adults may lead to decreased perceived competence and increased emotional and behavioral disengagement Mathematical disabilities thus have a substantial societal impact.
HOW TO WORK WITH THEM
– Task analysis
In order to help these students a good way to work with them is to do a task analysis. This means dividing the task into several smaller steps in order to make it easier for the students not to get lost. As we have mentioned before, this type of students have a great difficulty in sequencing and steps to follow, breaking these big statements into smaller steps allows them to focus on one task at a time and reach the result more easily.
One way to do this can be as follows: before reading the statement, do a pre-reading, what is it that we are going to read; after this, read the statement underlining the most important information; read the question, what is it that we have to find out; write down the data we have; do the necessary calculations.
– Explicit instructions
It is also necessary that students are given very specific instructions for the exercises and activities. It is necessary that the instructions are clear so that they know exactly what they must do at each moment. To do this, before starting, an introduction of the topic and the purpose of the activity is made, then a modeling with interaction by the students is made, in other words, an example is made in which the students participate by giving their input. Once this is done, the students can perform their independent practice.
– Multisensory instructions.
A very useful way of working is the use of multisensory elements in the explanations to these students with dyslexia. Introducing visual, auditory and tactile elements in the classroom helps the retention of new content, something that is so difficult for this type of students. These elements help with the memory problems that students with dyslexia have.
One way to work with them would be the use of drawings or figures. Students represent step by step using these elements what is happening and in this way they can understand and memorize certain mathematical aspects.
When we talk about scaffolding in teaching, we refer to all those structures, strategies or support activities that the teacher offers so that the student can construct knowledge. This is especially important when we talk about students with dyslexia. It is essential that students are presented with knowledge step by step and in a very structured way, using a lot of repetition so that they can link new knowledge with previous knowledge.