Dyscalculia is a learning difficulty that makes understanding and working with numbers and math concepts challenging for children (and adults).
It’s important to note that it’s not about how clever a child is; it’s about how their brain processes math.
In this article, we will share some of our top practical tips for both teachers and parents on how to support a child with dyscalculia in learning maths.
Let’s get started.
Let’s take a brief pause to make sure we have a full understanding of what dyscalculia is and how it can affect a child.
A child with dyscalculia might find it hard to count, understand number sequences, or do basic calculations like addition and subtraction.
They may also struggle with telling the time or handling money.
These challenges can be frustrating and can cause a lot of anxiety, but with the right strategies, children with dyscalculia can learn and succeed in maths.
See also: How to get a child tested for dyscalculia.
Tips For Teaching Math To A Child With Dyscalculia
If you know a child has been diagnosed with dyscalculia, there are many things you can do to support them on their learning journey.
We’ve included our top tips below:
Practice Patience And Positivity
First things first – patience is key.
Learning maths can be more challenging and time-consuming for a child with dyscalculia, so give them the time they need.
Celebrate small victories and maintain a positive and encouraging attitude. Avoid showing frustration or disappointment if progress seems slow.
Use Visual Aids
Visual aids can be incredibly helpful for a child with dyscalculia.
Use things like number lines, visual counters, or blocks to represent numbers and mathematical concepts.
These can make abstract ideas more concrete and easier to understand (and they’re more fun!)
Use Real-World Examples
Connecting math to real-life situations can make it more meaningful.
For example, use cooking or shopping as a way to teach basic arithmetic.
This approach not only helps with understanding but also shows how math is used in everyday life.
Practice Hands-On Learning
Encourage hands-on activities, both in the classroom and at home.
This could mean using physical objects for counting or measuring or playing interactive math games.
Activities like these make learning more engaging and less abstract.
Try To Break Down Concepts
Simplify math concepts by breaking them down into smaller, more manageable parts.
Teach one concept at a time and ensure the child has grasped it before moving on to the next.
Avoid overloading the child with too many math concepts, as it can lead to overwhelm.
Provide A Consistent Routine
A consistent learning routine can provide a sense of security and help build confidence.
Try to make math practice a regular part of the day. This should be continued at home, where math lessons should be gently reinforced through engaging activities.
Find The Child’s Individual Learning Pace
Every child is different, regardless of whether or not they have dyscalculia.
It’s important to understand and respect the child’s individual learning pace.
Some concepts may take longer to grasp, and that’s perfectly okay.
There are many apps and software designed to help children with learning difficulties like dyscalculia.
These can provide engaging, interactive ways to practice math skills.
And don’t forget the humble calculator – it can be a great aid for a child with dyscalculia.
Encourage your child or student to ask questions.
Understanding their thought process can help identify specific areas of difficulty and address them effectively.
And if they’re asking questions, it’s a good indication that they’re more engaged and interested in absorbing the information.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement goes a long way – especially when a child finds something challenging.
Remember to praise their effort and not just correct answers.
Emphasising the value of trying and perseverance can help build a positive attitude toward math.
Try To Simplify Instructions
When explaining math concepts, use simple, clear language. Avoid using too many words or overly complex explanations.
And as we mentioned earlier, encourage questions when you give a child instructions.
Focus On Conceptual Understanding
Rather than focusing purely on getting the child to memorise facts, emphasise understanding the concepts behind mathematical tasks.
This builds a stronger foundation for future learning.
Adapt Teaching Methods
Be flexible with teaching methods.
If one approach isn’t working, try another. This could mean switching from visual aids to physical activities or from individual work to group activities.
Create A Supportive Environment
Create a supportive learning environment where mistakes are seen as a normal part of learning – both in school and at home.
This helps reduce anxiety and fear around math.
Work Closely Together And Report On Progress
Parents should work closely with their child’s school and vice versa.
Regular communication can ensure a consistent approach and identify any additional support that may be needed.
Provide Regular Breaks
Allow for regular breaks during math lessons.
Short, focused sessions are often more effective than long, drawn-out ones.
This should also apply at home – when reinforcing math lessons or doing homework, allow your child regular breaks to do something completely different.
Build Numeracy Into Daily Life
Incorporate numeracy into daily life where you can.
Simple activities like counting steps, comparing prices, or measuring ingredients can reinforce math skills.
Incorporating storytelling can make math more engaging.
Create stories around numbers and mathematical concepts – it can be a lot of fun.
As the child becomes more confident, encourage them to work out problems independently.
This builds confidence and problem-solving skills.
Avoid Negative Labelling
Avoid labelling the child as ‘bad at math.’ Focus on their effort and the progress they are making.
And focus on all the other things they are wonderful at.
Seek Professional Advice
If you’re struggling to help your child, don’t hesitate to seek advice from professionals such as educational psychologists or specialist tutors.
Further reading: Is dyscalculia a disability?
Our Final Thoughts
Teaching math to a child with dyscalculia requires patience, understanding, and creativity.
It’s about finding what works best for the child and building their confidence and skills over time.
By using these tips, both teachers and parents can provide effective support, helping children with dyscalculia to overcome their challenges and succeed in math.
If you would like to chat more about dyscalculia or arrange an assessment, contact us here.