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Dyslexia and Math Facts
Q: I'm homeschooling my fifth-grader, who inherited our family's dyslexia. We have successfully remediated the reading portion of his disability. He's on grade level with reading, but math is still a problem. He catches on to math concepts quickly and retains them, but he doesn't retain math facts very well. Are there any tricks to overcoming this aspect of dyslexia?
A: Kids who have difficulty mastering math facts often do better if they are approached in a special order and practiced in small chunks several times a day for five minutes. For example, for multiplication facts, try this order: X0, X1, X2, X5, x 10, X9 and perfect squares (e.g., 3 x 3, 4 x 4, 6 x 6, etc.). Once those facts are mastered, you're left with only ten facts and their turn-arounds to just memorize: 3 x 4, 3 x 6, 3 x 7, 3 x 8, 4 x 6, 4 x 7, 4 x 8, 6 x 7, 6 x 8, 7 x 8. Don't forget to also practice the "turn-arounds" for these facts. For example, when you're doing 3 x 4, also do 4 x 3. Once multiplication facts are truly automatic, division facts are much more easily learned as "missing factors" (e.g., 7 x ? = 56). Stress speed and accuracy when you are practicing math facts. I time students for one minute and see how many facts they can answer in that time. I chart their progress so both of us know how they are doing.
There are some good tools available to master math facts: Times Tables the Fun Way from City Creek Press offers games for practice.
You might want to also take a look at two extremely useful books for teaching math: Teaching Mathematics to the Learning Disabled by Nancy Bley and Carol Thornton and the Strategic Math Series by Susan Peterson Miller and Cecil D. Mercer (Edge Enterprises, PO Box 1304, Lawrence, KS 66044, Phone: 1-785-749-1473). The Strategic Math Series has a volume on each set of math facts: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Each volume comes with a set of "pig dice" to practice facts in a fun way.
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For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.