There is a big difference between mathematics and arithmetic.
Dyslexics are generally good at mathematics, if taught properly, but not always good at arithmetic.
Arithmetic involves calculating sums.
It is the act of adding, subtracting, multiplication or division. Mathematics involves arithmetic and problem solving.
Albert Einstein, who worked out the theory of relativity that unified space and time, is generally thought to be one of the best mathematicians of all time, but his wife would help him with the arithmetic.
Primary schools tend to focus on arithmetic rather than math and dyslexics often go onto High School believing that they are no good at math, when it is most probably the arithmetic that is holding them back.
So tip …
1 is try to focus on math or problem solving and not merely arithmetic.
Dyslexics learn best by working out, so if a problem is given that involves the student having to work out HOW to solve it, then they remember how they did it rather than what they have been told.
I do not consider sum sentences, which go a bit like …
…”Margaret and Jasmine each bought 4 sweets. How many did they have altogether?” as real problem solving because for a start the dyslexic may not be able read “Margaret” and so will be unable to do the sum. Also many dyslexics that I have worked with find the reading of these questions hard and then refuse to believe that the sum only involves adding 4 and 4 together so look for something difficult and get confused.
2 Try to keep reading to a minimum in work sheets.
At best the dyslexic will get eyestrain and headaches from all the reading and at worst s/he will be unable to read it correctly. Always check to see that your dyslexic can read ALL of the worksheet. If there is a problem with the reading then try to place the dyslexic pupil next to a good reader who can help.
3 Try not to merely explain a new process orally.
Most dyslexics have some Auditory Processing problems so will be unable to remember the instructions. Then they will get confused and may never learn the concept properly.
Always illustrate the method with workings out and show an example that can be kept for reference. Use as many concrete materials as possible so that the dyslexic can work out how to get the answer for her/himself. Children remember best what they have worked out for themselves.
4 Teach only one kind of math sum at a time.
Use this rule also when revising. So many worksheets chop from one type of sum to another throughout the sheet. Dyslexics find this very difficult because our brains process new information more slowly that other people. However we do process new information better than other people. So once your dyslexic has learned something properly then s/he will remember it forever.
5 Encourage any pupil who does not remember his/her number bonds to dock on and off using fingers.
Blocks are used merely to teach the concepts and, with dyslexics, there will be a big gap between understanding the concepts and remembering the number bonds. Sometimes this gap will last a lifetime. I have known university professors who still dock off using their fingers. For more details about docking off see chapter 17 in Dyslexia – How to Win by Dawn Matthews.
Please encourage fingers, rather than a ruler, for docking on and off with because the child will always have his/her fingers on him/her. It seems silly to teach them to add and take away with a ruler because then they have to spend the rest of their lives carrying a ruler with them everywhere.
6 Allow any pupil who does not remember their times tables to use a times table sheet or calculator for multiplication or division sums.
If you do not know your times tables then it is near impossible to do long multiplication or long division without the use of an aid. And remember calculators are here to stay. They even put them on mobile phones. There is a times table square available as a freebie on this site. See this for instructions as to when to let a student use one of these aids.
7 Teach by exploring and doing rather than by observing.
Keep everything as practical as possible. Encourage the pupil to find out for him/herself rather than being told. Dyslexics are good at this.
Sir Richard Branson said that math make no sense at all until he ran his own business and then it became very simple. And believe me there is a LOT of math involved in running a business.
8 Print math worksheets on blue or green paper.
This makes it easier for most dyslexics to read but some dyslexics find yellow or red paper easier. If the pupil has been tested for this then encourage him/her to use the overlay or tinted glasses s/he has been given.
9 To find out if the pupil has learnt a new concept or process completely test a week after it has been taught.
If a thing has been properly learned and understood then it will be in the long-term memory and will still be there a week after it has been learned. Testing immediately after a process is taught only establishes that it is in the short-term memory and it can then be forgotten again. This is what happens with many dyslexics.
10 For a dyslexic harder can actually be easier.
We dyslexics think and learn differently from other people. What we find hard is often very easy for other people. And often what we find easy is hard for other people. If a pupil cannot complete a task do not assume that s/he has to be given easier tasks. Often something more difficult, involving more actual math and less arithmetic, can be easier. Just look at Albert Einstein and Sir Richard Branson.