Dyslexia & Maths: How to Support Dyslexic Learners
Posted on 31st March 2021 at 15:00
On 29 March, the Adult Dyslexia Centre held the fourth session of its Understanding Dyslexia course for parents. The topic was ‘Dyslexia and Maths’ and the aim of the session was to give parents some useful tips and strategies to support their children in maths. Convened on Zoom, parents from locally and further afield came together to share ideas and learn from our guest speaker, Mary Ashworth. Mary has over 20 years’ experience teaching maths to teenagers and adults, many of whom were not diagnosed with dyslexia at school.
So, what did we learn?
‘Maths teaching is all about building confidence’, emphasised Mary. It’s always a good idea to start with easier questions before moving on to more complicated examples.
As a parent, it’s also important to adopt a positive attitude and try to encourage your child to think maths is fun! Admittedly easier said than done in some cases, but remember children often show more willingness to learn something when they can see its everyday relevance. For example, try relating a maths problem to tasks such as DIY, cooking and shopping, and if possible, to your child’s hobby, whether it be video games, sport or music.
How about a maths notebook?
A popular piece of advice amongst the parents on the course was to suggest that their child keeps a maths notebook, in the same way that they might have a vocabulary book for English. The notebook can be filled with keywords and everyday works used in maths problem-solving , such as, subtract, increase, per cent, altogether, half price etc., as well as step by step methods to refer back to.
For dyslexic learners, the wordy maths questions in exams can cause difficulty therefore, being familiar with these keywords will help the learner to identify what the question is asking. Another useful tip is to underline or highlight the maths words in a question or hold a ruler underneath the question when reading.
Coloured or squared paper often helps children when reading numbers, so consider this when out shopping for your notebook!
Top tips for numbers
Visualisation is key to success. Using number lines, 1-100 grids, ladders and stairs, all help to help the learner to create a picture of what’s happening to the numbers. Mary suggested always writing the numbers down – there’s no reason to do it all in your head! For those who struggle with times tables, in particular, it’s also good practice to write them out before tackling the question.
More on times tables…
Times tables are a challenge for many of us! Times tables squares are incredibly useful. You should encourage your child to start with 1s, 2s, 5s and 10s to build their confidence before filling in the remaining gaps.
Some times tables are easier than others and Mary taught the parents a useful trick to help with the 9s – see below! It’s practical therefore excellent for many dyslexic learners.
You can also try this one: write 0-9 vertically down your page and then, starting on the right of the 9, write 0-9 vertically up the page. You’ll find you can write the whole times table out in just 30 seconds!
To the parents’ disappointment, no such trick exists for the 8s! However, if your child is good at doubling, why not double your 2s to get your 4s, and double your 4s to get your 8s?
Where possible, you can help your child by practising maths through games and activities. For example, sorting numbers by writing them on a grid, cutting them into squares and moving them around the table makes the process much more manageable!
When learning fractions, why not use pizza? It’s a good way to remember that the higher the number on the bottom, the smaller the piece! For dyslexic learners, it’s helpful to avoid complex terminology such as numerator and denominator; just refer to the top and the bottom numbers to start with.
A positive future
The session taught the parents many useful tricks to support their children and also gave them a safe space to exchange experiences with other parents of dyslexic children.
If you’re interested in the Understanding Dyslexia course, the Adult Dyslexia Centre is taking enquires for the next course later this year. To find out more, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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