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THE DYSLEXIA SOLUTION

Volume 11 • #11 • November 2007

NEWSLETTER

Did you ever wonder why a bright dyslectic kid who can’t read is often poor at math as well?  After all, numbers are not letters, there is no sound-symbol matching required, no spelling, no punctuation, no digits that look like mirror images of each other like b and  d.  To understand, it helps to consider which idiosyncrasies in word-handling might spill over into number handling as well.

A hallmark of dyslexia is inability to keep letter sequences straight.  Understandably, a brain which is perfectly happy to go “owdn” in an elevator after going “pu” is not going to be impressed by the difference between 31 and 13.  So there goes the decimal system of notation.

A dyslectic child typically has a deficit in verbal memory, which shows up especially in memorizing a series of disconnected facts, like the days of the week or the months of the year. So out the window goes the multiplication table, not to mention the addition facts to twenty.  The verbal memory problem also turns up in remembering  which direction came first if he is given three things to do. A mom who tells her kid to do this, then that, then the third thing is wasting her breath.  He will have forgotten what the first one was by the time she has finished talking, never mind which instruction came second. So that wipes out long division.

The right side does not handle grammar, but the difference between “Take one half from seven,” and “Take one half of seven.” is the difference between two prepositions, of and from. Word problems are almost entirely solved by analyzing grammar in terms of math, so you can see why they are just mud in the eye of the dyslectic child who is using his right hemisphere.

Fractions can be a problem, too.  Word-poor kids don’t really know what “numerator and denominator” mean, so they feel free to add the tops and add the bottoms  when they “add” fractions.  I once had an extremely artistic kid who felt that improper fractions looked top-heavy, so when he came to one, he blandly turned it upside down and went on with the problem!

Teaching math to dyslectic people requires two things: first, they must be taught WHY you do something, not just HOW you do it.  Second, you must use English, not necessarily correct mathematical terms.  Sorry, math teachers. Remember, we are not trying to produce proper mathematicians.  We just want to get the kids through school and able to handle numbers well enough not to go broke or wind up in the clink.



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