By Karen van Voorst, Remedial Therapist
Do you have a child or learner who isn’t doing well in math? Perhaps this learner has been diagnosed with dyslexia, dyscalculia, or another learning difference. No matter what’s on the student’s plate, the nitty gritty of it is this; math facts must be memorised and the learner must be able to recall these facts automatically for math success.
The greatest gift you can give a learner struggling in maths is the solid foundation of knowing math facts. Following below, are some tips and guidelines to follow when helping your child memorise these crucial maths facts and components.
Steer away from using traditional flashcards. A learner with a learning difference does not learn in this left-brain dominant fashion. Usually, these students need to see, hear, and move in order to memorise, so simply looking at meaningless numbers, will most likely not help.
Don’t attempt to teach your child every fact in a group, all at once. Start with, for example, counting in 1’s or 2’s, depending on where your child’s current ability lies. Focus on just 1’s until your child has mastered these facts. Then go to the next set, for example counting in 2’s, and practice those until mastery is achieved. Then, continue on in this fashion with the rest of the number sets or times tables.
Before presenting another set of facts, do a review of facts already learnt. Children with learning differences will often forget what they knew the day before, so reviewing previously learnt information, is crucial. The old saying still counts today: In order for a child to progress and successfully acquire and make sense of newly learnt information, always move from the “known” to the “unknown”, therefore link the new learning with previously taught information. When you present the child with “new learning” material, make sure that it is consolidated properly first and mastered, before moving onto the next “new learning” material, otherwise, the child will start to feel as if he/she is “treading water” which will sadly lead to the child feeling as if he/she is “drowning”.
Use a tactile substance, such as sand or shaving cream for practice. Have the learner write and say the math facts in the substance while saying the fact out loud. Colour is important, so make sure to use coloured sand or put food colouring in the shaving cream. A multi-sensory approach to learning, makes learning meaningful and it will then become a pleasant experience that the child will remember.
Present the answer with the fact. The learner needs to associate the answer with the group of numbers that it goes with. Traditional flashcards and workbooks usually don’t show the answer with the fact. The learner rarely sees the answer, so in turn, does not memorise or recognise these number combinations.
Use coloured markers or pencils when practicing math facts instead of a traditional pencil. Most learners who struggle with math facts are right-brain dominant, and colour helps the right side of the brain stay focused while doing number problems or calculations. Right brain-dominant learners love pictures, creativity, colour, music, movement, rhythm, and learn through the whole picture – not bit-by-bit. This isn’t new information! But most people get frustrated with right-brain dominant learners because they are expected to teach, learn or operate with left-brain skills. Often clashes occur. Why not opt for whole-brain learning instead, to help get the most out of your child?
Use patterning of numbers that appear in the math facts. For instance, if you are working on multiplication facts and focusing on 3’s, then have your child count by 3’s while doing another activity, such as throwing a ball back and forth or jumping on a trampoline.
There are many apps that make math facts interesting and fun. Many are very affordable or free.
These are just a few ideas that I hope will help you and your child gain this important math foundation. Games of any kind will help and make it fun as well. Just don’t give up, and pretty soon you’ll have a strong mathematician on your hands!
Next we will look at “Multiple Intelligences” and how we can help children identify their strengths and what they are good at, to overcome the difficulties that they might face in acquiring information more easily.