Tackling Math Learning Disabilities

Greater Kashmir

By identifying it early, a child can get the help they need to reach their potential

Parents need fast facts and tips to help their children succeed. If a child is not doing as well in school as they have the potential to, they may have a learning disability. Having a learning disability means having a normal intelligence but a problem in one or more areas of learning. A learning disability (LD) is a neurobiological disorder. People with LD have brains that learn differently because of differences in brain structure and/or function.
When LDs are not found and treated early on, they tend to snowball.  As kids lag behind in school, they may become more and more frustrated. Often, self-esteem problems lead to bad behavior and other problems. High school dropout rates are much higher for students with LDs than for those without these educational differences, in turn, affect the job and earnings prospects for people with LDs.  When LD is not noticed or not treated, it can cause adult literacy problems. By identifying LDs early, a child will get the help they need to reach their potential.
Educators estimate that between 5 and 10 percent of kids between ages 6 and 17 have learning disabilities. But the percentage may be higher in valley due to the reasons well known.
The understanding of basic math’s skills is so important to later learning. Confidence with fundamental skills at an early stage means children get positive feedback and have a positive attitude towards Maths. Unfortunately the opposite occurs when children struggle. It is often said that maths is difficult because it is so abstract but it has not to be if introduced in the right way. Many children first learn numbers as a symbol. They see a 1 and told that is one; they are shown a 2 and told that is two. Soon they are told they can count because they can say 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 &10 but for many they have never related this to quantity. 
If a child struggles with math or has been identified with a learning disability (LD) in math, it is called dyscalculia.  Dyscalculia is not a single type of math disability, but a wide range of lifelong learning disabilities involving math. People with dyscalculia may struggle with number sense, such as counting, estimation and comparison of quantities and basic arithmetic. Quick retrieval of number facts and calculation fluency seem to be key characteristics of people with dyscalculia.
Mathematical learning disabilities are common among school-age children. Recent studies suggest that the incidence of math LD ranges from 5% to 9% of children. Math LD can co-occur with other types of LD, but a substantial percentage of children have math LD alone. Universally Boys are more likely to have math LD than girls.
Researchers have found a link between kindergarten math performance and later math achievement. Because of this, it is important to nurture math in preschool and elementary students. If your school-age child struggles with math, do not delay sharing your concerns with school personnel or other professionals. Math instruction builds upon foundational skills taught in the lower grades, so it is important that children who struggle receive interventions early. Students with strong executive function skills are more likely to do well in math. Those with poor executive function skills may struggle with organizing information for multiple-step problem solving, monitoring the use of problem-solving strategies and other crucial processes for answering math problems. It is possible that remediating executive function skills may help students with dyscalculia.
Learning strategies for students who struggle with math depend in large part on the type of difficulty the student is experiencing. Whether the child has reading difficulties should also be taken into account. In general, programs for students with math LD should include attention to basic skills, explicit instruction and lots of opportunities for practice and mastery. Programs should make sure that students revisit and master earlier concepts and skills before moving forward. Research on math LD lags behind research on reading and other learning disabilities. While 30 years of solid research on reading has been applied to classroom practices and intervention programs, the same is not true for mathematics. However, there is much hope as research on math LD is becoming more common.
(Irshad Ahrar has an MBA in Retail Services)