Now that Thanksgiving is over, the biggest holiday of the year is upon us. I absolutely love the sights and sounds of Christmas. I mean the sheer joy of excitement leading up to December 25th brings a smile to my face every year. But beyond the hype of shopping for gifts, the delicious food sampling (my favorite), and even time off of work, I am grateful to know that the true meaning of Christmas is based on the birth of a child born in the town of Bethlehem years ago. This precious child came to the world bringing gifts of love, hope, joy, and peace. In understanding the special qualities of the Holy One, I reflect on the unique qualities of children who I have worked with over the years.
On last week I shared an interview that I did with a teacher who works with Special Needs Learners in a phase II/self-contained classroom. During the interview, helpful information and strategies were shared to help educators, parents, and guardians be able to make math more meaningful to those children with severe learning disabilities. In this final post on this topic, I want to shine the spotlight on one type of math disability that does not get enough attention as it should. Dyscalculia is defined as a structural disorder of mathematical abilities caused by impairment to part of the brain used in mathematical calculations (Kosc, 1940).
While dyscalculia may be an unfamiliar term, today's researchers use other terms such as math dyslexia and math learning disability instead (please note that the term math dyslexia may be misleading as dyscalculia and dyslexia are not the same thing). Children that show signs of dyscalculia may have a difficult time understanding number related concepts such as quantities (i.e. biggest vs. smallest, etc.)
I have seen students who struggle with understanding that the number 9 is the same as the word nine. The struggling learners often have a difficult time recalling math facts and they also have a hard time holding a number in their mind while doing multi-step math problems. Although dyscalculia is certainly a learning disability, it looks different at different ages and research finds that it becomes more obvious as children get older. Below are bulleted points that highlight what dyscalculia looks like at every level in school:
With the Thanksgiving holiday quickly approaching, I am reminded of all the many blessings in my life. Of the ones that I am most appreciative for, my family and friends are at the top of the list. So as we prepare to gather with those who are near and dear to us, let's appreciate the many qualities that each of those individuals bring to our lives (although we may find that those qualities have a way of working our last nerve on occasion,) it is their uniqueness that makes them who they are. I say that and I'm reminded of those individuals who see life a lot differently than we do because of the physical, emotional, or intellectual challenges that impair their view of the world due to their disability.
In last week's post, I discussed the challenges that students face when struggling to make meaning of mathematical concepts. Just as students are identified with disabilities in Reading, there are also students who have disabilities in math. This week I did an interview with Dr. Delbrica Knowel an Educational Advocate for children in Foster Care and Phase II teacher in Special Education (click on the link below to listen to the audio). During her interview, Dr. Knowel discussed specific ways that she plans lessons so that she can meet the needs of each of her students. She also offers suggestions for parents of the Special Needs Learner when helping their child complete math assignments at home. I hope you enjoy this audio recording and I pray that your Thanksgiving is abundantly blessed! Until next time, go out there and be GREAT!
a thought for the week
Daisy was the highest reader in Mr. Thompson's 3rd grade class. She had excellent comprehension and the work that she produced during Writer's Workshop showed a strong correlation between both reading and writing. During the reading block, Daisy was actively engaged in the lessons and even helped students who struggled in reading. However, math time was just the opposite. Daisy's grades were well below average. She failed to make sense of multi-step problems and often times mixed up operations (ex: she added instead of subtracting, etc.) Even with visual models and hands on math materials, Daisy could not explain patterns that she noted when skip counting by 2's, 5's, or even 10's. This really concerned Mr. Thompson. In speaking with Daisy's parents they also expressed their concerns about her struggles in Math. They also admitted that Daisy becomes very irritable and tries to avoid doing her math homework. Her parents also stated that she cries and says she hates math because it's too hard.
In an article by Kate Garnett (2018), approximately 6% of school-aged children have significant math deficits and among students classified as learning disabled, arithmetic difficulties are as pervasive as reading problems. Math failure during school years certainly affect a person's life as an adult. Just as reading is a life skill, math concepts such as mathematical reasoning play a critical role in an adults ability to function in society.
Math disabilities are persistent and just like reading disabilities they range from mild to severe. Some of the most common challenges for students include an inability to master basic number facts, confusion between math symbols and hands-on materials (ex: as in the case of Daisy in the opening scenario), and specific vocabulary or math terminology that students have a hard time interpreting. This topic is part of a two part blog series on students with learning disabilities in math. In next week's blog I will share an interview that I did with a Phase II teacher who works directly with special needs learners in a self-contained classroom. She will offer insight along with ways that she differentiates instruction with the various academic learners in her classroom on a daily basis. Under this week's Intentional Toolkit, I have provided a few articles that provide insight on ways to identify as well as support students who struggle in math. As we advocate for our students let's continue to use best practices that are research based and yield positive results. This ultimately places our students on a path towards success! Until next time, go out there and be GREAT!
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