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Teaching Times Tables to Students with Dyscalculia

Instructor: Pamela Brezenski

Pamela holds a M.S. in Special Education and is ABD EdD Special Education. Pamela has experience in the following settings: 6th LA/SS, 9-10th LD/ED, K-12 and K-5 LD/ED/ID

Multiplication skills open the door to successful upper-level math skills. Students with dyscalculia struggle to memorize the times table, and you can help them by using creative teaching methods.

Teaching Times Tables to Students Diagnosed with Dyscalculia

Simple memorization through flashcards and timed quizzes do not work with every student. Understanding student processing difficulties is a critical element in identifying how to effectively teach the multiplication table. To effectively reach your students, you must first identify their processing needs. Once you know what their needs are, you can then use programs that will quickly remediate their times table fact recognition skills.

Areas of Struggle with Times Table Attainment

Three key weaknesses, identified by Geary (2000), cause limitations for students when solving mathematical problems. Students with dyscalculia may show limitations in counting, problem-solving, and working memory. You may notice students struggling to recall their facts, use their visual timetable facts when solving problems, or being able to follow a process. These three key areas may be areas of concern:

Counting

Struggles with counting are a common characteristic of students diagnosed with dyscalculia. Students are often unable to visually or auditorily process the order of numbers. Times tables and multiplication are often difficult if students do not have these skills.

Arithmetical Problems

Number transposition and order may be difficult for students because facts are not visually or auditorily stores into long-term memory. Mental math and problem-solving are difficult for students diagnosed with dyscalculia. Multiplication table memorization and knowledge require both the storage of facts into long-term memory and mental problem-solving.

Working Memory

Some students diagnosed with dyscalculia may know their facts one day, and they can't retrieve them the next. Working memory struggles impact students, because they are unable to remember what they just looked at or just heard. They are unable to process the memory and place it into working memory.

Learning Deficits that May Impact Attainment

One student with a disability is not like any other student with a disability. 'Drill and kill' methods often used in classrooms may not be effective for all students. Finding the unique needs of a student is critical when working to remediate skills and develop strategies. Students diagnosed with dyscalculia may struggle with visual or auditory processing deficits. Processing deficits significantly limit student ability to retrieve times table facts from memory. The following processing limitations may include:

  • Visual Processing: Students with visual processing deficits do not have actual vision problems, but they are unable to interpret what their eyes see. Students may see the facts, but their brain may not encode them into memory. No matter how many times you have them write the facts, their brain may not allow them to recall them. Simple drill and kill will not be an effective method of instruction. Using creative programming that primarily relies on auditory strengths paired with visual will help in retention of facts.
  • Auditory Processing: Students with auditory processing deficits may hear well, but their brain does not process what they are listening to. You may have students with auditory limitations recite their facts out loud, or listen to programs, but they may not be able to encode them into memory for retention. They may struggle at verbal games related to times table facts. The more visual a lesson can be for these learners, the better. Pairing creative visuals and tactile elements will help students remember facts.

Program Types that Support Times Table Skills

Regardless of which deficit exists, it is important that you plan lessons and times table remediation activities based on individual needs. Multi-sensory programming is the key to supporting youth with disabilities to learn their times table facts. There are several methods to try to help students succeed.

Visual Story Methods

Visual story methods offer a multi-sensory approach to teaching the times table. Programs using these methods attach catchy, auditory stories to pictures to help students remember. Using a program like this is simple. You show students the card with the picture and verbally tell the story that relates to the times problem. Students recite the story and begin to develop one on one correspondence with the cards. You can access many of these methods by completing an internet search.

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