Dyslexia in general is a neurological disorder that can affect any human being. A human being suffering from dyslexia has difficulties to develop mostly literacy skills, thus meaning that this person has difficulties in reading fluently and writing words and sentences, difficulties in the blending of letters in words and understanding what is being read. In most cases, any form of dyslexia is genetic.
Apart from the most common literacy diffuclties students with dyslexia have to face, other skills such as arithmetic and motion skills can be affected as well. Students that have a diffiluty learning basic mathematical calculations are known to suffer from Developmental Dyscalculia.
What is Developmental Dyscalculia?
Developmental Dyscalculia, also known as "arithmetic learning disabilty", is difficulty of students learning and memorizing arithmetics facts and solving artithmetic and calculation procedures.
People suffering from dyscalculia are known that have less brain activity in the Intra-Paretial Sulcus, a specific area of the brain which is known to process mathematical problems.
Although not a lot of research has been done concerning this mathematical learning disabilty, there is still a lot that we know about this disability. Below is a brief introduction of some of the symptoms that are commonly found in students suffering from dyscalcuia, and that have been found out through research according to D.C. Geary, C.C. Bow-Thomas, Y. Yao, C O. Et al. (as cited by Dr.Anna Wilson, 2007 - 2008).
Most dyscalculic students have difficulties in counting little amount of numbers and show that they did not understand the basic counting principles. Also, these students might take a lot of time to add two numbers together. This is when students use inefficient addition techniques that might take longer for the brain to calculate. Difficulties in memorizing simple mathematical facts is also a common difficulty found in students suffering from dyscalculia. This may include simple addition and subtraction that are very easy to remember . (3 + 4 = 7).
Also, students might have other difficulties that might also addresss the symptoms mentioned before.
Students suffering from dyscalculia might lack the "Number sense". This means that dyscalculic students might have difficulties in understanding and making sense out of numbers and their quantities. These students might take even more time to understand and evaluate simple quantity tasks such as comparing two numbers and see which one is the largest. (for example: 7 and 9). Also, Automatic processing is slower in dyscalculic students. This means that if a symbol or a number is represented to the student (for example: 6), it takes the dyscalculic students more time and effort to cause the sense of the quantity of that particular number. This can also mean that dyscalculic students might have different interpretation of reading numbers from a piece of paper and hearing the numbers from the teacher.
Teachers and facilitators have also reported some symptoms, but no research has been conducted on them. Some of these symptoms are likely to affect the students suffering from Dyscalculia. This is when students have difficulty imagining a number line, difficulty with the subtraction of two number, difficulty with the breaking down of a number (knowing that 7 is made up of 5 and 2) and difficulty in learning and comprehending methods and multi-step calculation procedures.
There are some other symptoms that might also be related to dyscalculia, but still no research has been conducted on them. This is when the students have difficulty in reading and writing, which might be affected by dyslexia itself, loosing focus while trying to pay attention in class, and other spatial difficulties such as not being good at drawing, difficulty in visualizing problems, forgetting the arrangement and alignment of objects and making sense out of time and direction.
The Scaffolding Technique
The scaffold teaching technique is a teaching strategy that is specialized for students that are going to learn a new subject. It gives the students motivation and a concrete foundation from which they can understand the new information that is going to be introduced to them during the following lessons.
Scaffolding is a good technique as it progresses from one stage to another, starting from the simplest steps of arithmetic calculation and gradually building up to higher steps and thus becoming more difficult. It gives the student the time needed to learn that particular area of the subject and solve a problem, and when the teacher sees that the student has understood the concept of that particular problem, the teacher can move the student onto the next level whereas the student will be using the same methods he has learned from the past steps with new methods that are in the next steps.
Any students that face any difficulties when starting a new step, they can always refer to the previous steps for revision.
According to Rachel R. Van Der Stuyf (2002), it refrains the student from constantly listening to the teacher and gives the opportunity to the student to work on his own initiative. It also gives the opportunity to the teacher to give positive feedback to the student when he succeeds in completing a problem, thus also helping students with low self-esteem, which is common among students suffering from learning disabilities.
A drawback from this teaching strategy is that it is very time consuming and not a lot of teachers are specialized in teaching according to this strategy and this might result in not seeing the full effect of this strategy.
This teaching strategy is adequate for students suffering from dyscalculia because it will start teaching the subject to the student from the easiest sections of the topic and gradually increasing the difficulty till the student can work on his own initiative. The most complicated mathematical problems in that particular topic will be broken down into simpler problems and the student can start working on the easier problems and when the teacher sees that the student is getting used to the problems or he has finished a signifcant amount of questions, he will be moved to the next step to work on more challenging questions but using all the equations the student has learned from the examples before.
Although the student will be supervised, he will not feel under pressure as the student will be allowed to work on his own pace, and the teacher will check from time to time on the student. Any difficulties that are met by the student during his work will be aided immediatley by the teacher as to keep the student on track and not loosing focus.
Subject to be tackled
To speak with Astarita for simple topic that can gradually increase it's difficulty.
A solid structure of numbers and letters that can be easily recognized by the student that is going to work the problem. Students can have the opportunity to draw the problem, either on screen or an a piece of paper. Also, having the student to read out loud the question or hear it from the program might be an asset as their auditory skills might make the learning process more effective.
Unnecessary pictures, words and diagrams will be removed from the worksheet as this might put the student out of focus. Games that can be focused on a certain topic and used to facilitate and make the learning process a little bit more fun, may be used, as long as they stay on topixc and do not distract the user into doing something irrelevant to the studies.
If the student finds a problem and cannot move forward, an implemented
On screen calculator, (to be customized for that current problem, or the fully scientific calculator)
Breaking down structure of numbers (pop ups for the number to show their values)
Assistive tchnology for dyscalculia
Involving a community in the system
Enhancement of the system
To involve the parents to help their children