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Math Strategies for Students with Learning Disabilities

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  • 0:04 Math Strategies
  • 0:34 Learning Disabilities
  • 2:10 Instructional Strategies
  • 2:59 Strategies for Student Success
  • 4:07 Lesson Summaries
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde
All students need strategies to find success in math, including those with learning disabilities. What kind of strategies work best? Read on to find out.

Math Strategies

All learning requires strategy. Because math works with both the concrete and abstract, specific tactics may be necessary for understanding and succeeding in a math classroom. Math strategies are methods used to solve problems in math. Students sometimes come about these naturally, but many are taught by teachers. For some students, such as those with special needs, specific strategies are necessary. Let's take a look at what learning disabilities are and how strategies may be different for those students.

Learning Disabilities

What type of learner are you? Do you take information easily from lectures, or do you need to get your hands moving to make sense of how things work? People learn in many ways. Teachers use different instructional practices in an effort to reach all learners. Sometimes traditional instruction poses a challenge to students. They can be diagnosed with a learning disability, which is a broad term used to identify those who struggle with learning at the level of their peers. A learning disability does not include a physical handicap. Children with learning disabilities do not necessarily have lower IQ scores or cognitive ability. Their brains are wired differently and require instruction in reading, writing, math, and other subjects to be nontraditional.

Common learning disabilities include:

  • Dyslexia, a reading disability based in language
  • Dyscalculia, a mathematical disability based on number sense
  • Auditory or visual processing disorders, sensory disabilities that make hearing or seeing difficult even though there are no physical issues with either.

Students diagnosed with a learning disability are found in almost every classroom. They often receive additional support from a resource outside the classroom, such as a specially-trained teacher, often called a resource teacher. They can also receive accommodations on tests, class, and homework. Accommodations are adjustments made to assignments and exams that allow those students with learning disabilities to complete the same academic tasks as their peers. Classroom teachers need to be aware of the needs of students with learning disabilities and offer unique and specific strategies for them to use.

Instructional Strategies

When teaching math to students with learning disabilities, it is important for teachers to keep a few basic thoughts in mind:

Keep lessons brief.

Students with learning disabilities are often overloaded if too much information is given at once.

Break up steps.

Even low-level math sometimes involves a multi-step process. When teaching, break up the steps into small lessons and make sure the student understands one before moving on to the next.

Use real-life examples.

Students with learning disabilities can benefit from connecting learning to examples from their lives, increasing their ability to remember skills.

Keep worksheets and notebooks clutter-free.

Students with learning disabilities can often become overwhelmed when they see a paper or worksheet with a lot of information. Create special pages for them with a few problems visible at a time.

Strategies for Everyday Use

Teachers should plan carefully for teaching students with learning disabilities. Once the lessons are planned and accommodations spelled out, a few more thoughts will go a long way to ensuring student success.

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