Richard Branson, a rich and famous dyslexic, was for most of his school career at the bottom of his mathematics class and had difficulty with most subjects. He started his first business while still at school and said that mathematics was easy once it was applied to real life. He was a millionaire at by the time he was 21.”
From Dyslexia How to Win by Dawn Matthews
Problems with numeracy, sometimes called Dyscalculia, can be another possible marker of dyslexia. Some of the difficulties experienced in numeracy can be attributed simply to the difficulty in reading or taking in long instructions and has no reflection on the maths itself. So, the core problem is often the literacy problem.
Dawn has invented many games involving key maths words and concepts that can be found in her book “Dyslexia: How to Win“.
Other difficulties that dyslexics experience concerning maths are with sequencing, number bonds, times tables and remembering and writing names of shapes etcetera. Frequently, these difficulties lie not with the concepts but with the manner in which they are taught. For example, the auditory dyslexic who may be good visually will not memorise times tables from their verbal repetition. There are countless ways in which simple things like that can hinder the dyslexic and impair his learning.
Dyscalculia is a label often given to children who have trouble with numbers. However, Dawn has found that most children with this label are actually dyslexic and will improve in maths if taught in the correct way.
Learning times tables is a particular problem to most dyslexics. Frequently, schools put stress on this one activity making life difficult for most dyslexics. However, in today’s society most adults use a calculator anyway and consideration should be given as to whether this skill is a vital one.
Most dyslexics learn concepts rather than facts and figures. They like to view the whole picture rather than learning it bit by bit. Dyslexics prefer to use their brains to invent, discover and imagine rather than to merely remember. Albert Einstein, a very famous dyslexic, said: “I don’t crowd my memory with facts that I can easily find in an encyclopedia”. He believed that if you knew too many facts you go lost amongst them. He preferred to use his brain to unify space and time in one elegant theory.
Below is a diagram to show how dyslexics prefer to learn.
(Taken from Dyslexia: How to Win)
Imagine the outer circle of these diagrams to represent the entire knowledge and understanding of a certain mathematical concept.
The diagram above shows how a dyslexic pupil prefers to learn. Dyslexics need to know where this circle is before they can remember any maths contained within it. Then they like to work from the outside inwards, from the basic understanding of what the concept is to covering everything about it, including how to use this concept and how to compute within it. Once everything is understood the dyslexic will remember that concept forever.
The diagram above shows how modern teaching of mathematics tends to be taught in isolated “pockets” of knowledge which are loosely related to each other. Once the pupil has learnt to do a few sums within a maths concept the teaching tends to move on to a completely different concept. The end result is a sheet of maths that contains sums covering, sometimes, twenty or so different concepts and the knowledge of each concept is moved forward slowly each.
Dyslexics remember through understanding rather than by remembering facts. The more facts and numbers are isolated from each other, as in the diagram to the right the less a dyslexic will understand and the less s/he will be able to remember.
Dyslexics are not intrinsically poor at mathematics, but they are unable to learn properly from many of the new text and work books. Dyslexics like to know everything about a stage or concept of maths and often fail to learn when presented with just a small sample of a concept.
Dyslexics also learn from doing and finding out. Being told that something is so is not good enough for most dyslexics. They want to see it proved to be so. Once a dyslexic has found some fact out for him/herself s/he will never forget it.
They are often extremely inventive and like to use maths skills in different and interesting ways. Merely learning existing knowledge often seems pointless to them.
Remember that Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Leonardo Da Vinci and Albert Einstein were all thought to be dyslexic as well as nearly half of all modern self made millionaires.
Helpful Hints -
- Dyslexics need to be taught one thing at a time and they need to understand why a concept is so before they can accept a mathematical rule and apply it.
- Patience and repetition are keys to success.
- Reduce the reading.
- Leave as much white space on work sheets as you can.
- Print work sheets on blue or green paper rather than bright white.
- Use tactile objects to demonstrate a concept.
- Allow the pupil to use fingers to count on and back (more about this can be found in Dawn’s book ‘Dyslexia: How to Win’)
- Use coins and/or different coloured pens to demonstrate place value.
- Do not expect a dyslexic pupil to do mental maths in his/her head without allowing him/her to write down workings as he/she goes.
- Numbers13 – 19 are frequently reversed because of the way they are said. Play bingo games until the pupils gets used to these numbers.
- Do not expect your dyslexic student to copy maths off of a chalk or felt board. This will be difficult for him/her.
- Make sure that your dyslexic pupil is doing the correct sum and has not miscopied or misread it.
Dyslexic pupils have problems remembering mathematical symbols, equations, etcetera. Check that they understand, remember and know the four basic symbols +, −, x ÷ as well as the other words, (add, subtract, multiply, divide and synonyms), used to describe them.
More complicated symbols and equations can be collated into an easy reference notebook so that the student can look them up quickly. (Taken from Dyslexia a Guide for Teachers).
An extensive list of tips to help the dyslexic with maths can be found in Dawn Matthews’ book Dyslexia How to Win.