Top Secret Formula for Supporting Dyslexic Students in Math

By Brittany Dotson, M.Ed., LDT

If you're an instructor, you definitely strive to meet the needs of all your students. That can sometimes be a challenge when you have a class with mixed abilities. That being said, some students may have learning disabilities such as Dysgraphia, Dyslexia, or ADHD. These students must have a tremendous amount of support in all academic areas and subjects. However, it is safe to say that sometimes as a teacher you may not know how to support your students in the best way possible. With so many different methods and strategies, you're confused on where to start. All you know is that your students are not receptive to instruction. But that's nothing that a good formula won't fix. What?....Formulas aren't just for solving math problems! Let me give you some strategies to fully support students with Dyslexia in math, surely to benefit all your students no matter their ability. But first, I will define Dyslexia and name ways it impacts a student's ability to do math.

Dyslexia Defined

“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”-International Dyslexia Association, 2002

Although dyslexia is mostly characterized as a reading disorder, between 60% and 100% of dyslexics have difficulty with certain aspects of mathematics as well. Dyslexia is not to be confused with Dyscalculia, a learning disability that causes trouble with making sense of numbers and math concepts.

How Dyslexia Impacts Learning Math

Disclosure: Learning disabilities manifest differently in each student.

  • Poor memorization and automatic recall (multiplication facts, sequence of steps, etc.)

  • Poor vocabulary acquisition

  • Difficulty with the retrieval of verbal information

  • Confuse arithmetic signs

  • Reverse numbers

  • Difficulty with word problems (comprehension)

  • Confusion with visual-spatial orientation (left to right, less than, lining up columns, Geometry aspects, etc.)

  • Difficulty copying

  • Reciting series of numbers

  • Lack of organizational skills for efficient output on multistep computations, planning, and sequencing

Tips and Strategies for Teachers

The skills needed to excel in math are often difficult for dyslexic students. Because of this, they need to be taught strategies. Here are some strategies for working with dyslexic students in math.

The goal is to get your students with dyslexia engaged while balancing the needs of the rest of your class. Hopefully this makes your classroom environment inviting to all students!

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