What are strategies for teaching a student with a math-related learning disability?

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Dyscalculia is a mathematics-related disability resulting from neurological dysfunction. Students who are diagnosed with Dyscalculia have average to above-average intellectual functioning and a significant discrepancy between their math skills and their chronological-age-peer norms. For a diagnosis of Dyscalculia, it must be determined that the math deficit is not simply related to issues such as poor instruction, vision, hearing or other physical problems, cultural or language differences, or developmental delays.

In Accommodating Math Students with Learning Disabilities, author Rochelle Kenyon lists the following strategies for teaching a student with math-related learning disabilities.

  • Avoid memory overload. Assign manageable amounts of work as skills are learned.
  • Build retention by providing review within a day or two of the initial learning of difficult skills.
  • Provide supervised practice to prevent students from practicing misconceptions and "misrules."
  • Make new learning meaningful by relating practice of subskills to the performance of the whole task.
  • Reduce processing demands by preteaching component skills of algorithms and strategies.
  • Help students to visualize math problems by drawing.
  • Use visual and auditory examples.
  • Use real-life situations that make problems functional and applicable to everyday life.
  • Do math problems on graph paper to keep the numbers in line.
  • Use uncluttered worksheets to avoid too much visual information.
  • Practice with age-appropriate games as motivational materials.
  • Have students track their progress.
  • Challenge critical thinking about real problems with problem solving.
  • Use manipulatives and technology such as tape recorders or calculators.

This list was adapted from the following source: Garnett, K., Frank, B., & Fleischner, J. X. (1983). A strategies generalization approach to basic fact learning (addition and subtraction lessons, manual #3; multiplication lessons, manual #5). Research Institute for the Study of Learning Disabilities. New York, NY: Teacher's College, Columbia University.

For additional resources on how to make mathematics accessible to students with disabilities, consult the DO-IT Knowledge Base article Where can I find tips on making math accessible to students with disabilities?

For more information regarding challenges faced by students with math-related learning disabilities, consult the DO-IT Knowledge Base article What are typical challenges students with math-related learning disabilities face?

Last update or review: January 25, 2013