Dyscalculia 1) What is dyscalculia? Kind of similar to dyslexia… Dyslexic students have difficulty with phonics and decoding words (“pulling the words off the page”). Dyscalculia is similar in that there is a fundamental neurological condition that is affecting the person’s ability to perform math functions. For dyscalculia there is a neurological difficulty understanding base number processing or “number sense.” This is a fundamental mathematical “impairment of the developmental brain mechanism (the left and right Intraparietal Sulci or IPS) for representation and processing of numerical magnitude information” (Prince and Ansari: Dyscalculia). In other words, people with dyscalculia need to be explicitly taught number sense concepts such as the total number of items in a set (similar to how dyslexic people need to be taught phonics and decoding strategies). The number of students with dyscalculia is similar to that of dyslexic students, however research, assessment, and treatment for dyslexia outnumbers dyscalculia (14:1 in 2007). Preliminary FMRI studies indicate the possibility that the brain processes this numeric information in a similar place to where it processes phonetic information (the IPS) and there is a high rate of comorbidity between dyslexia, ADD, and dyscalculia. 2) What does it look like as students progress through school? Difficulty with fundamental number sense is often first noticed as young as kindergarten with tasks such as manipulating the number line to do simple addition and subtraction activities or making sets of numbers. Later in education, students with dyscalculia often have difficulty with math fact retrieval (Prince and Ansari: Dyscalculia). A study found that typically developing students can recall 3 times as many math facts as those with dyscalculia ( Hasselbring et al. 1988). This difficulty often leads to the use of inefficient problem solving strategies or difficulty knowing what strategy to use in middle and high school. 3) Treatment Step 1- testing and gathering information to gain an understanding for where to begin treatment The fundamental problem with dyscalculia is number sense, so the first step is to get a clear understanding of what the student knows and doesn't know in terms of this fundamental skill. This should involve achievement testing such as the WAIT and other math specific achievement tests to identify the gaps that need to be addressed as well as conversations with the school, child and family. There is a hypothesis that dyscalculia can be affected by cognitive mechanisms such as working memory, visual- spatial processing, and attention, thus it is also important to get an accurate understanding of these cognitive mechanisms through IQ (such as the WISC) and behavioral testing (such as the BASC). We would want to be sure to address and scaffold learning if working memory, visual- spatial processing, and/ or attention are difficulties for the student In other words, similar to how dyslexic treatment focuses on an Orton Gilligiam approach that teaches the fundamentals of pulling words off the page, students with dyscalculia need comprehensive teaching specific to number sense and it is important working memory, visual- spatial processing, and attention are considered when tutoring the student. While this remediation is happening, students can attend grade level math class however they will need accommodations to support their difficulty with number sense, math facts, and math formulas. Examples of such accommodations are: 1. Take inventory of what students learned before teaching new skills 2. Teach self-talk to solve problems 3. Encourage students to draw charts or sketch to solve problems 4. Provide graph paper to help with lining up numbers 5. Provide math formulas already taught 6. Use manipulatives like coins, blocks, and puzzles to teach 8. Use concrete examples that connect to real life 7. Use attention getter phrases, "This is important because ..." 9. Check in and have student explain problem or concept 10. Use or offer graphic organizers to break down steps These accommodations are adapted from Understood.org; 11. Create separate worksheets for word and number problems 12. Color code, highlight, or circle key words and numbers 13. Provide extra time on tests and assignments 14. Give step by step directions and have students repeat back 15. Allow math facts and charts as a resource 16. Allow visual aids and/or manipulatives when solving problems 17. Give rubric that describes elements of an assignment 18. Allow calculators when computation isn't the actual assessment 19. Use paper to cover problems on a test to make it easier to focus 20. Provide space to write problems and chunk worksheets