Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dyscalculia: Instructional Materials and Learning Environment

Instructional Materials

The choice for instructional materials for children with dyscalculia should be broad. It has to be varied in order to best suit the instructional objectives as well as the needs and interests of the child.  For a dyscalculic child, the materials should be more or less multisensory and concrete since understanding the abstract concepts of math for them is a very tedious task.

If available, the following materials will best help in teaching mathematics to a child with dyscalculia.


Math counters are effective concrete tools in picturing out mathematical operations and problems. The counters can be designated with colors and shapes to represent numbers and values like tens, hundreds and thousands.

In the case of Julie Ann, math counters needed not be commercially bought. Indigenous materials can be used like bottle caps, marbles or shells.

Cuisenaire Rods

Cuisenaire rods are colored cuboids where different colors represent the numbers 1 to 10. Initially, children should play with the rods, name the colors and explore the relationships between them. They can be used in structured ways for comparing and sequencing numbers, for adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing, and later for fraction work.

Base Ten Material

The base ten material consists of wooden cubes and cuboids for learning about the tens-based system. It also encapsulates the links among length, area and volume. The unit cube is 1 cm3, the tens rod is 10 cm long, the 100 square is 10 cm × 10 cm, and the 1000 cube is 10 cm × 10 cm × 10 cm.
Some children will use the equipment and name it correctly but do not really understand what the sizes represent. Children should be allowed to play with the equipment as well as doing structured activities to investigate the relationships and prove to themselves that there actually are100 small cubes in the 100 square and 1000 small cubes in the 1000 cube. Children often express surprise when they have done these activities.

Stern Blocks

Stern equipment is similar to Cuisenaire rods in that it consists of different colored wooden cubes and cuboids that are related to each other by size. The advantage of the Cuisenaire rods is that they are based on the metric unit of 1 cm3. The advantage of the Stern equipment is that the pieces are larger, making it easier for small children to handle and the individual units are marked on each piece. The Stern equipment also has square base boards for each of the numbers 1 to 9 and the dual board for teaching the principle of exchange and place value.

ETV(Educational Television Videos)

ETV series like Math-Tinik is a package of videos with mathematical topics explained in easy and fun manner. The videos show mathematical concepts and their application in real-life context. These also include songs and jingles that any child with or without dyscalculia will like.

Activity Sheets

These are also called worksheets wherein the child needs to accomplish certain tasks depending on the specified objectives for the day. The sheets may contain different activities like puzzles, complete-the picture, battery test and others.

Learning Environment

The classroom or the learning environment should be suitable for learning. The room should be well-arranged, well-lighted and well-ventilated. The environment should be free from distractions and noise to accommodate a learning atmosphere. It must be noted that Math, like any other subjects requires concentration in order to have a better chance of success.

It is recommended that a child with dyscalculia will be seated in front so that he can focus more on the lesson. Since he is seated near the discussing teacher, her questions and clarifications can easily be accommodated.

A resource room is also needed for the pull-out program. This room must be free from distraction brought about by other students from regular classroom. The room must also contain various etching materials and references for instruction. The resource room can be the Learning Resource Center (LRC) of the school or the library.

  Community/Parental Support

The intervention and programs must not stop on the four corners of the school. These have to be extended even at the child’s home. On this matter, it is important therefore to have the communication line open between the school and the family.
Parental support really plays a role in the success of the intervention for the child with dyscalculia. The more involved parents are in what goes on in the classroom, the more likely they are to understand the teacher’s goals and practices that will bring positive outcomes to the child. More importantly, the student will be reinforced to study more in spite of the disability not only by materials rewards but rather by the encouragement and faith given by significant people like the family.  
In order to do these, parent-teacher-school relationship should be strengthened. This can be done through:

  1. Involving parents in classroom activities. .
Letting the parents participate by preparing classroom materials, serving on a committee to select classroom equipment and materials, or sharing information and personal experiences of overcoming difficulties
  1. Giving parents a voice in decisions. 
Considering parents’ viewpoints in making decisions about their children’s schooling  and about goals and standards for their children.
  1. Parent-teacher conferences/meetings. 
Parents will feel free to share information, ask questions, and make recommendations about projects that involved their child and share information in a way that encourages respectful two-way communication.  

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