Ask the specialist!

Question: Can dyslexia impact math performance?


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Yes - difficulty with math can be related to dyslexia. According to research, dyslexics have trouble with directionality, sequencing, and rote random memorization. A lot of math involves "showing your work" in specific places, so difficulty with directionality can lead to problems with things such as carrying numbers and borrowing. Also, many math concepts require students to memorize and use a series of steps. This can be challenging for a student with dyslexia due to their trouble with sequencing. Additionally, schools expect students to memorize math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) from an early age. Typically, the dyslexic student can explain the concept behind math facts and they can get the answer if given enough time and some manipulatives; however, they have a very difficult time recalling the facts quickly and accurately. Timed math fact quizzes can be torture. Finally, we can’t forget the dreaded word problem! Students with dyslexia can have such difficulty figuring out the words in these problems that they cannot even begin to solve them. All of these things can make math challenging for students with dyslexia.

However, some students with dyslexia struggle with math over and beyond these typical pitfalls. These students might have another condition, dyscalculia. Dyscalculia is the learning disability related to math. Students with dyscalculia have lots of difficulty understanding the logic behind math concepts. Like dyslexia, dyscalculia is a brain based condition. Dyscalculia is not as well known nor as well researched as dyslexia, but many scholars believe it to be almost as common.

At Read Write, we love working with dyslexic students on their math! Our approach is very hands on with lots of manipulatives to help the students understand the concept. Once they understand it deeply, they can remember the steps much better. We also emphasize place value as a way to help students know and remember where to put the numbers. And, we practice, practice, practice!

We also enjoy working with students who have dyscalculia. We go back to the foundational skills and help students fill in any gaps they might have. With intensive, systematic intervention, all students can become capable mathematicians! Let us know if we can help.

Feel free to send us more questions. We may turn some of them into an Ask the Specialist Blog! 

About the Author: Hunter Oswalt is the Director of Read Write's Baldwin County office. She is a state certified reading specialist and has earned the designation Certified Academic Language Practitioner (CALP) from by the Academic Language Therapy Association.