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Supporting Learners Identified With Dyscalculia

by Katie Lillard

What is Dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia is a learning difference related to math. People identified with dyscalculia are affected at many levels, from their ability to compute basic math equations to their understanding of numerical values and relationships. 

Dyscalculia is rooted in a difference within the brain and is, therefore, a life-long condition that can be supported through specific instructional strategies.

Dyscalculia often presents in children with developmental delays in counting and sorting and may continue to affect a maturing teen’s ability to count money, make change, remember math concepts, and more. Like dyslexia, each case of dyscalculia is unique, presenting individualistic challenges from person to person. For this reason, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to supporting a student identified with dyscalculia in math, but an array of approaches that teachers can employ.  

Strategies for teaching math to students with dyscalculia

When introducing new skills in class, teachers may use the following accommodations to support students with dyscalculia: 

  • Review. Because many students with dyscalculia find it difficult to retain information related to math, it is important to review more often, especially before beginning a new unit or skill.

  • Encourage students to verbalize their process.  Talking through math problems may help students build a mental script or road map to refer to later. 

Differentiate instruction for dyscalculia using the following approaches:

  • Use manipulatives. Hands-on learning is helpful for many students, even those without learning differences. For students with dyscalculia, having the ability to physically manipulate objects makes abstract concepts more concrete. 

  • Provide notes. Having a reference handy with previously taught equations and formulas helps eliminate the amount of extraneous cognitive load. 

  • Allow the use of a calculator when appropriate.

  • Use visual aids. Show and allow students to create charts to help solve problems. Allow students the use of graph paper.

  • Use real-world examples. Let your students know why this skill is important when they can use it, and provide an example that is interesting and relevant to them.

  • Allow students to have extra time on classwork and assignments. 

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