How can we better support children who have learning difficulties to learn maths?

Some children have trouble learning the basics of maths. Instead of being able to work out sums, they need to laboriously work them out time and time again. Many parents dismiss this problem as a normal stage in life, especially if they too had this problem when they were younger.

But there are a variety of math learning disabilities you should be familiar with. These children can have issues counting and memorising facts. As a teacher, you could be dealing with a child who suffers from issues such as ADHD, Asperger’s, autism, dyslexia, dysgraphia or dyscalculia.

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability in reading but it can also cause issues with comprehension, spelling and writing. Dysgraphia is a condition that causes trouble with written expression but it goes far deeper than just messy handwriting. Dyscalculia is brain-based condition that makes it difficult to do math.

It’s vital that in today’s world that any learning issues are recognised and identified as early on as possible. In the absence of intensive instruction and intervention, children with maths difficulties and disabilities could lag significantly behind.

Many jobs require maths, not just to be a maths teacher or engineer, but also to be a cashier or game designer for example. Maths is also important for everyday life such as being able to count money, knowing how much flour to put in a cake or telling the time. When teaching maths in the classroom we need to strive to get children to understand how important maths is in our daily life while also making it fun.

There are, however, many ways of teaching maths to children who find it difficult. We know that when a child likes something they are more likely to pick it up.

Below are a few different ways of encouraging and helping children to learn maths:

Make it interactive

Motivating children to do maths with interactive practice such as maths games. This makes learning maths a little bit more fun than the typical classroom taught way.

Make it visual

Getting children to solve problems with objects that can be felt, seen and moved about might make it easier for them to understand the problem.

Make it repetitive

Going over similar maths problems repeatedly may make the concept easier to remember.

Make it daily

Getting children to do maths every day may help make the concepts stick faster.

Move on to harder problems

Make up a pocket-sized facts chart to allow children to move onto harder and more complex maths problems.

Get the child to become the teacher

Getting children to explain and elaborate on what they are doing. This may give a child the extra push to integrate the knowledge into their mind. Becoming the teacher may make it easier for children to understand what they are being taught.

 

Recognising if your child is experiencing problems when learning math can be difficult. Regardless of whether they are having issues, here are some useful classroom terms to be familiar with:

Chunking

The ability to break numbers in math problems down into smaller, more manageable groups.

Computation

Finding an answer by using math operations such as adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing.

Manipulatives

These are physical objects children use to learn mathematical concepts by ‘manipulating’ them. Blocks, for example, are used in the classroom to teach children addition and subtraction.

Number Sense

The ability to use and understand numbers without a paper and pencil.

Transcoding

Being able to translate numerical information from the spoken version to the written version. I.e. hearing ‘seven’ and knowing how to write down ‘7’.

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