Welcome back to 31 Days of Spina Bifida Awareness!
From the research I’ve done it seems math difficulty for children with SB revolves around two main areas. The first is number sense, the ability to understand the size of a number (that 1 is smaller than 10, that 10 is smaller than 100) and how far away it is from another number (is 9 or 19 further away from 12?). A portion of this difficulty comes back to executive function. Remember how making quick judgments is problematic for some children with SB? Determining which number is bigger or which is further away both involve making judgment calls about groups of information. Having a physical representation to manipulate helps develop number sense. As a child moves further in elementary school and beyond the numbers get larger and more abstract, making it more difficult to picture and make judgment calls.
The second area that poses difficulty in math is that calculations include many different procedures, sometimes all in the same problem. Remembering and using them consistently, especially if a child has memory and attention issues (as discussed yesterday in executive function), are the challenge. Even if a child starts out well in a multi-step problem if their attention is distracted midway they return to work and cannot remember where in the process they were or what step to do next.
How to Help
In my reading there have been themes for how to help, which I alluded to in an earlier post: Medication and turning the child over to special education departments. Specific to math the strategy is to turn a child over to someone else to teach differently, accommodating their learning disability with special interventions.
Remember, I homeschool. That means I won’t just accept the “let someone else deal with it for you” answer. Doing a bit more research I began to find just what these ‘special interventions’ are when helping a child with SB overcome math problems. Is it just me, or are these pretty straightforward?
In the Preschool Years
- Practice counting groups of items.
- Practice sorting items by different characteristics (ex: by color – red in a pile, blue in a pile; by type – bears in a pile, cars in a pile).
- Have them make judgment calls on larger vs. smaller groups and then allow them to count the items in each group to check their answer (can I say DUH?).
- Play games like Candyland and dominoes.
In Elementary School and Beyond
- Use meaningful manipulatives to help a child see math problems concretely.
- Use a number line to allow a child to see numbers in relation to one another.
- Keep playing games!
- Relate abstract math problems to real-life using word problems.
- Practice each math concept until it is mastered, instead of a spiral math approach that teaches multiple new skills and rotates back through them repeatedly until they are all mastered.
- Encourage a child to think through a math problem out loud. This helps them not go on auto-pilot and make distracted mistakes. It also allows the teacher/parent to hear the child’s thought process when tackling a math problem to see where they are getting off track.
- Teach a student to check their work.
I don’t know yet if Mason will struggle with learning and applying math. I do know that what I’ve read so far is common-sense strategies to help him, things I can teach myself. And if we come to something I don’t know how to help him with we can work with a professional to learn together.
Tomorrow – reading comprehension. I promise, I’ll cover the whole ADD/ADHD medication topic before the week is out.