19 Sep Teaching a Child With Math Learning Disabilities
How to Teach a Child with Math Learning Disabilities
Learning disabilities are not always apparent. Sometimes, when a child has difficulties picking up skills in a particular subject or area, it may be a sign of a learning disability. These are typically developmental problems related to attention, movement, or any academic subject.
Learning disabilities can manifest at a particular stage of the child’s life. For example, a child could be making good progress during their early years but begins to suddenly have problems developing their skills further once they reach fourth grade. When their learning pace shows a sudden shift and starts to slow down in a certain subject, such as mathematics, it could be pointing to a math learning disability, which can also be considered a developmental learning disability.
It is essential to understand that this could be different for every child. Furthermore, it can reach a point where the demands exceed the child’s capacity. It could happen at any age and any point in the child’s life and academic progress.
In most instances, there is a higher chance of a learning disability or math learning disability if a child is born with certain risk factors. If one or both parents has a history of struggling with math, the child is more likely to have the same issues.
Developmental vs. Acute Learning Disabilities
On the other hand, the risk could be external as well. If a child has had a brain injury that caused a shift in their capacity to think and learn, they can develop learning disabilities. It is known as an acute learning disability since the child does not have developmental learning disabilities.
When we talk about developmental skills, it refers to progress over time. It takes years to develop a certain skill set, and mathematics is no different.
We use the term ‘dyscalculia’ for math learning disabilities. A child having this condition may show a variety of symptoms.
Underachievement in mathematics is a clear mark of dyscalculia. However, it is also essential to understand that a child with dyscalculia can also be an excellent speaker or writer or perform relatively well in other subjects. And yet, the opposite case is also possible where the student has different learning disabilities in addition to dyscalculia.
How to Teach a Child with Math Learning Disabilities
Dyscalculia problems typically revolve around understanding the basic units (numbers and processes) of mathematics, making unconscious mistakes while performing calculations, and recalling numbers and formulas.
Practicing can be helpful in the case of dyscalculia, but it usually does not work in the long run. This is because dyscalculic students tend to be forgetful of the mathematical concepts they learn.
On the other hand, a child with no math learning disabilities may be better off with simple tutoring. The main key is to instill confidence in such students. Also, remember that no two students are the same – everybody has their own pace of learning, and each student has difficulties with various problems or topics.
Themba Tutors work with all kinds of students. We teach a child with math learning disabilities or dyscalculia regardless of how severe the symptoms are. Likewise, we tutor students that have not been diagnosed with learning disabilities but are looking for extra help with their school work.
Examples of How a Child can Struggle with Math
So how do you know if your child is struggling with math? And more importantly, how do you teach a child with math learning disabilities? First, it is essential to remember that math learning disabilities can appear at the elementary, middle, or high school level. There is no certainty of when the issue can arise, but a significant sign is that the child has severe difficulties compared to their classmates.
These students usually have trouble with underlying skills such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and the number line. Math relies on these foundational skills, so a child with dyscalculia might have problems with automaticity or applying these skills smoothly to solve higher-level math problems.
You can also look for the following symptoms of dyscalculia in middle and high school students:
- Losing track while counting
- Trouble with remembering mathematical formulas and rules
- Unable to recall facts related to multiplication, addition, and other basic operations
- Poor understanding of the base ten systems
- Finding fractions difficult to solve
- Confusion about where to place numbers while performing division or other sequential processes in arithmetic
- Problem understanding longer numbers, like those with more than three or four digits in them
- Confusion between quantitative information such as speed, size, and weight. Math problems involving these qualities can also be problematic.
- Problem following visual cues such as maps or directions. Even following step-by-step processing or methods to achieve a task can be difficult.
Math has always been one of the most difficult subjects, so it’s considered normal for many students to face some struggles. However, if your child is having more difficulty in the subject compared to their peers, it may be a sign of a learning disability. The first step in knowing how to teach a child with math learning disabilities is getting an evaluation from a neuropsychologist. It will help you understand whether or not your child has learning disabilities in math. A neuropsychologist can highlight learning difficulties in-depth, providing an overview of patterns and behaviors your child might be suffering from.
A proper evaluation can help detect whether your child has dyscalculia or a math learning disability. However, other issues could impact the child’s ability to learn math, such as executive function difficulties and ADHD. In this case, personalized tutoring/coaching is the best way to move forward.
In either case, we at Themba Tutors understand that looking for a neuropsychologist and a tutor could get tricky. To keep things simple, we provide solutions to children struggling with math. Similarly, if your child needs a neuropsychological evaluation, we can help you connect with a licensed neuropsychologist.
Frustration and noticeable struggles with math can be a sign of dyscalculia or math learning disability. A child with dyscalculia will have unique needs and will require a different learning approach that may not always be provided to him or her in a typical classroom. To teach a child with math learning disabilities, it’s important that you work with a professional tutor who understands the student’s curriculum and can teach it in an individualized manner.
A neuropsychological evaluation may be in order if you notice that your child’s math difficulties is more pronounced when compared to their peers (for example, unable to recall mathematical problems they solved only the day before). It can help diagnose dyscalculia, along with other probable learning difficulties.
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