Saturday, August 11, 2012

Dyslexia and maths

Not all individuals with dyslexia have problems with mathematics. I have, however, seen a few dyslexic students who don’t seem to understand mathematics.

Individuals with dyslexia who have difficulty with mathematics are quite often misdiagnosed as having dyscalculia. Some children with dyslexia have problems with mathematics because what they have been taught makes no sense to them. Most teachers hardly take the time and trouble to make sure that these children do understand the basic principles. This seems to be the same problem with them learning how to read in English. Their basic problem is that they do not understand and their minds shut down.

Recently a mother of a dyslexic boy requested me to teach her son to read in English. I had decided to stop teaching as I intend to travel and I would feel uneasy to leave a pupil who has commenced studying with me. However, the mother convinced me to teach her child whenever I am around in Kota Kinabalu. I am glad I started teaching this child, let me call him Tun (not his real name), as I am again learning from this child as much as I am teaching him. Like my former students Tun is also very likeable.

With my teaching experience I knew exactly why Tun was having a problem reading and therefore was able to teach him to read in a very short time. I understand from his mother that he now brings home story books from his school library and enjoys reading. I would like to continue reading to him until he becomes fluent but I was informed that Tun has a problem with mathematics as well. Most of my previous students did not have as big a problem with mathematics as Tun.

Tun’s mother asked me to start teaching him subtractions as he could not understand the concept of how to ‘borrow’ from the tens and hundreds to subtract a larger number from a smaller number in the ones and tens row. An example would be: 245 – 67. You cannot deduct 7 from 5 and therefore have to borrow 10 from 4 which is in the 10 column/row.

As Tun is now in primary 2 the numbers he has to work with is already into hundreds. So, I started to teach him from the primary one level restricting myself to two digit numbers:  87 – 58, 66 – 47 etc.
Once he could grasp this I went to 3 digit numbers and he learnt it quite quickly.  Tun comes to me when he has mathematics problems which his mother cannot tackle.

I have taken the following statement from Dyslexia Victoria. It has been very well thought out and written beautifully.

* Dyslexia changes from a Learning Difference to a Learning Disability when a child cannot learn in school due to inappropriate teaching methods and having become frustrated, exhausted, humiliated and despondent. When a child loses their self-esteem and begins to believe they are "stupid" they are filled with "self-limiting beliefs". They shut down and can no longer learn many new skills in school in a normal and timely manner - if at all.


Anonymous said...


Congratulations on your tutoring of Tun!

It's said that in the USA many ten-year-olds don't know their multiplication tables.

I believe the trick is that kids, at age seven, should be fluent (at least 40 answers per minute) with simple addition facts (like 6 + 8 = 14)

If one skips the nine-plusses (a simple formula gives the answers), zero-plusses, one-plusses and reversals (2 + 3 = 3 + 2) there are only about 30 of them.

If kids get this, the rest of math comes automatically!

Luqman Michel said...

Thank you. I shall try this with any new student who is not good in Mathematics. As for multiplication tables (6,7,8, 9 and 10 Times Table)I have some easy ways to do them at my site:

David said...

The Dyscalculia or math blindness is sharing a root causes with dyslexia, that's why some people unfortunately can get both symptoms but those don't always overlap:

Luqman Michel said...

Thank you very much David. I learn something new almost every day.

Micci said...

Hi! Michel,
Have you heard of "Singapore math?" one of the private school for Dyslexia in New England has been adapted this method and heard has been successful.

I'm slowly trying with my daughter who needs multi-sensory learning support. My daughter also mentioned to me that she was using some dices when she was working on Math at the summer camp she attend and quite easy for her to understand +,- with higher numbers. Too late for me, I did not have a chance to ask what method did they use. Best! michi

Luqman Michel said...

Yes, I heard of Singapore maths only recently but do not know what it is exactly.
Dices? Do you mean abacus? Abacus for maths is very efficient. After a while one can do maths mentally without the actual apparatus as the user can visualise the product (answer) as they do the maths mentally.
Mi mi have you checked out my site at :
That site will surely be useful for your daughter.

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