What we do
Dyslexic Strengths specialises in working with kids who live with dyslexia (trouble with reading and spelling) and dyscalculia (trouble with maths and numbers). Sometimes kids living with dyslexia have trouble with maths even if they don’t have a diagnosis of dyscalculia. Our program is suitable for all kids living with dyslexia and/or dyscalculia.
Why kids living with dyscalculia and/or dyslexia find maths difficult
There has been less research on the causes of dyscalculia than there has been for dyslexia. However, it has been shown that maths calculations and our sense of numbers are processed in a different part of the brain to language processing. Not all kids living with dyslexia struggle with maths and not all kids living with dyscalculia struggle with reading – however, there does seem to be a relationship between the two and some differences.
The primary difference is that kids living with dyscalculia have more difficulty working with numbers, having a general sense of numbers and working with number symbols.
They find it more difficult to estimate, know how much bigger one number is than another and find it more difficult to work accurately with sequences and counting. They often need to use their fingers and can have difficulty with days of the week, telling the time and having a sense of time.
They can generally work out quantities when they are working with physical objects, such as counters or blocks but when we take these away and use numbers, symbols or word problems they find it more difficult. For example, if they see something like 6 + 1 = 61, they don’t necessarily see anything wrong with it, because they don’t intuitively know that 61 is a much bigger number than 6+1.
The range of difficulties kids living with dyscalculia include:
- Working with symbols
- Maths uses lots of symbols to represent numbers and operations. For example, knowing that the digit ‘2’ represents ‘two things’ is more difficult for them to grasp. Knowing that the symbol ‘+’ means adding two things together is also a difficult concept for them to grasp.
- Maths vocabulary
- The language of maths is some of the most complex languages we have to understand. Sometimes it doesn’t seem to make any logical sense to kids and there are lots of different terms for the same operation. For example, there are lots of different words for the ‘-‘ symbol such as subtract, minus, less, difference, decrease, take away and deduct. This can be very confusing.
- Working memory
- Kids living with dyscalculia generally have more trouble holding numbers in their heads and working with them, so they tend to rely on using fingers or making marks or dots on a page. This is a slow way of working that leads to difficulty when things become more complicated in later years.
- Processing speed
- They have a slower retrieval of key facts and numbers, even if they know the answer, it takes them longer to come up with it.
- They can find it tricky working out before and after, forwards and backwards and counting reliably. They might skip numbers when counting without realising it and have extra difficulty counting backwards.
- Seeing number patterns
- They don’t instantly recognise patterns like the 6 patterns on dice or dominos or seeing that 6+4 is the same as 4+6.
- Some kids who find maths tricky develop maths anxiety, and just thinking about maths can make them feel anxious. When kids are anxious their working memory is dramatically reduced compounding their existing difficulty with keeping numbers in their heads.
Maths is a sequential subject, with each year of instruction building on what the kids have covered in the previous year. Often kids who struggle have missed out on some fundamental concepts or understandings early on and so each year it becomes harder and harder for them to keep up. Kids who struggle also tend to rely on early strategies like counting on their fingers that work for simple maths but stop working (and even make things harder) when the maths becomes more complicated.
Our program takes kids right back to the basics of numbers – what they are, what they represent, and how we use them and work sequentially. At each individual’s pace, we work through all the basic number facts and maths operations to ensure that they have the strategies and knowledge they need to succeed. Without a complete understanding of the basics such as estimating, place value, number bonds and operations (+, -, ×, ÷) kids will find maths more difficult with each passing year.
At Dyslexic Strengths, we always use each kid’s strengths to build their learning and support the areas they find more tricky. Our strategy with maths follows the world’s best practice of starting with concrete materials (counters, number sticks, beads etc), moving to graphical representations of these (dot patterns, shapes, ten frames) and finally to symbols and numbers. This gives kids the strategies and understanding they need to succeed with maths.
What we cover
Every kid is different, so we are always assessing kids as we go, identifying and addressing the areas in which they need the most support. If it is obvious a kid knows something we can move through that concept at a faster pace. The general sequence we follow with kids is:
- Understanding numbers
- Place value
- Basic number facts and number bonds
- Addition and subtraction
- Multiplication and division
- Area and perimeter
In each session, we provide direct and explicit instruction in small easy to follow steps with the least amount of stress and pressure possible. We always use a combination of concrete materials, picture representations and symbols and ensure the kids have fun while learning by playing lots of games that give kids the practise they need.
We also ask that kids do a small amount (5-10 minutes) of practise each day using cards that reinforce their knowledge of the basic facts and a homework sheet to give them practise in what they have learned that week.
We have a tutoring room in Blackwood, south of Adelaide, that is set-up to be an ideal, quiet environment for kids to have their sessions.
We can also travel to you or your school (with the schools’ permission), to provide our services (a small travel fee is applied to cover costs). Sometimes this is more convenient for you, or your kid might feel more comfortable in their own home.
One on one tutoring is $90 per session (usually 60min)
Session fees are payable upfront on a term by term basis and make-up sessions are given for sessions that are missed.
Contact us today with any questions you might have about dyscalculia or specific learning differences. You can also book a free and confidential initial meeting, where we can discuss your particular needs.
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