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MATHEMATICS LEARNING DIFFICULTIES FOR SCHOOL STUDENTS:
PROBLEMS AND STRATEGIES
Mathematics learning problems range from mild to severe and manifest themselves in a variety of ways. Most common are difficulties with efficient recall of basic arithmetic facts and reliability in written computation. When these problems are accompanied by a strong conceptual grasp of mathematical and spatial relations, it is important not to bog the student down by focusing only on remediating computation. While important to work on, such efforts should not deny a full mathematics education to otherwise capable students.
Dyscalculia is a learning issue that impacts mathematics and the challenges show up everywhere-with homework, class work and tests and everyday tasks. Students with dyscalculia have weaknesses in skills related to mathematics. They may have trouble learning to count and recalling math facts. They may also have poor number sense and not understand math concepts like “greater than” and “less than.” And they may struggle with remembering phone numbers or keeping track of scores when they’re playing sports. Sometimes, these challenges can make students with dyscalculia feel anxious about having to do math-related tasks. But dyscalculia is not the same as math anxiety. Math anxiety can make students question their abilities in mathematics, even if they have strong skills and although it’s not a learning issue, it can certainly get in the way of learning mathematics.
DYSCALCULIA SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Dyscalculia can cause different types of math difficulties. So symptoms may vary from students to students. Observing student and taking notes to share with teachers and doctors is a good way to find the best strategies and supports for our school students. Dyscalculia often looks different at different ages. It tends to become more apparent as students get older. But symptoms can appear as early as preschool to high school.
- Student’s trouble learning to count and skip over numbers long after students the same age can remember numbers in the right order.
- Struggles to recognize patterns, such as smallest to largest or tallest to shortest.
- Has trouble recognizing number symbols.
- Doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of counting. For example, when asked for five blocks, she just hands you an armful, rather than counting them out.
- Has difficulty learning and recalling basic math facts, such as 2 + 4 = 6.
- Struggles to identify +, ‒ and other signs, and to use them correctly.
- May still use fingers to count instead of using more advanced strategies, like mental mathematics.
- Struggles to understand words related to mathematics, such as greater than and less than.
- Has trouble with visual-spatial representations of numbers, such as number lines.
- Has difficulty understanding place value.
- Has trouble writing numerals clearly or putting them in the correct column.
- Has trouble with fractions and with measuring things, like ingredients in a simple recipe.
- Struggles to keep score in sports games.
- Struggles to apply math concepts to money, including estimating the total cost, making exact change and figuring out a tip.
- Has hard time grasping information shown on graphs or charts.
- Have difficulty measuring things like ingredients in a simple recipe or liquids in a bottle.
- Has trouble finding different approaches to the same math problem.