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How to differentiate for students with dyscalculia

AClem 21 November 2012 11:53
I'm a PGCE trainee, with very little knowledge of special needs.  I have a student in my year 10 class with dyscalculia.  The class teacher I have taken the class from provides no differentiation for this student at all.  However, it is clear that she simply cannot follow the tasks we are doing in class.  We've recently been covering nth term in sequences, and I thought appropriate differentiation for her would be to give her a worksheet asking her just to complete the next 3 terms of a linear sequence.  However, she struggles even with very basic addition / counting, so even that wasn't very successful (she found it very difficult to spot the pattern.  For example, in a sequence that started 3, 5, 7, 9.... she thought the sequence was going up in 3's).  I really want to help this student, but feel I lack the expertise.  Are they specific resources that anyone can recommend.

Thanks for listening
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dmorris1 21 November 2012 13:31
I would start by caring out a careful base line assessment, a useful tool is the Sandwell Early Numeracy Test, this is a standardised test which measures from P6 - NC Level 2C and is available from GL Assessments - cost around £120.
It is a child friendly 1:1 assessment, verbal, with minimal recording. it is both a summative and formative test and will give you some very useful information on language skills, value computation, oral and object counting.

I would also explore previous inteventions which have been used and if the student has ever had an Ed psych assessment, as you mention dyscalculia, it suggests there has been some recognition of the students difficulties.

This student needs a curriculum tailored to his/her needs which starts from a secure base, however low and then builds on that understanding. The use of concrete resources, practical real experiences, manipulating structured apparatus, Numicon, Dienes (Base 10) alongside symbolic representations (place value cards) and sharing of appropriate mathematical language.

I dislike labels but if your student is described correctly then you should see a student who has no understanding of number, beyond recall of the number seqence in ones always starting at 1 and counting to ?; possibly as low as 10. A student who does not use the language of comparison and does not connect the number name with a value and certainly does not describe the value relationships beyond the conunt seqeunce.

Examples of dyscalculia: You ask the student to position 12 on a number line marked 0 at one end and 20 at the other, he will either have no idea and randomly position the 12 or appear to count from 1, placing the number card at the point he says 12.

Also he will fail to accept the Order irrelevance principle and when asked to find how many will not using counting as a strategy unless prompted and even then may fail to count to find how many, a further indicator would be an inability to subitize so instead of being able to say 3 when presented with a random array of 3 objects, will count them.

I am an Every child counts teacher leader working with Edge Hill university to support teachers working with children/students in the bottom 4% - children/students who whether defined as dyscalculic or not, have severe difficulties and delay with their maths. If the things I have mentioned ring a bell and from your description they will do; you need support with this student. If you let me know were you teach I would be able to put you in touch with a Numbers Count Teacher trained in working with shildren/students such as yours, even if our teachers work with Primary children; thier skills will support you and your student.

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AClem 21 November 2012 16:14
Hi David

Thanks for your reply.  The girl in question has been given the assessment of dyscalculia via an intervention programme run by the school for KS3 students who enter secondary at a Level 2 or below (unfortunately the school does not offer the intervention to KS4 pupils).  She has not had an evaluation via and Educational Psychologist and does not have a statement.  Your response does make me question whether the diagnosis is correct.  She can work with a number line, and has a reasonable understanding of place value.  She knows for example that 12 is neither a 1 nor a 2, she knows that it comes after 10 and before 20, but doesn't grasp that 12 is 10 plus 2.
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joe1013 21 November 2012 19:44
Your last post might suggest that the Dyscalclia assessment may not be correct....but it matters not. My advice to teachers was always that if you notice learning difficulties, put in place T&L activities and pedagogy to support them.....whether the difficulties turn out long- or short term.

There is some literature which I would recommend.
  • The Dyscalculia Toolkit by Ronit Bird offeres advice, acticities and games.
  • Teaching Number: advancing children's skills and strategies by Wright and others offers a comprehensive approasch to developing number.

It might be worth you (or better still your tutor) reminding the school of the Ofsted "Matthematics: Made to Measure" report and the new framework for inspection. It is expected that all pupils make progress, including those with SEN. It might focus their attention on these children.

There are a few things on this NCETM Portal that will be useful to you.
Go to RESOURCES...microsites:
  • What Makes a Good Resource? has an area dedicated to SEN. Try some. If you develop or find another....maybe you can post this back for others.
  • SEN Mathematics Teachers offers some short video Talking Heads of teachers from SEN settings offering their advice.
  • Un the Teaching Assistants and Other Adults micro-site are some case studies with associatred CPD activites. One of these is related to working with children with SEN. Thre are others. You may find more there.
I hope that some of this helps. Good luck with your teaching practice and with your career.

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dmorris1 22 November 2012 10:07 - Last edited by dmorris1 on 22 November 2012 10:12
Hello again,
As a post after mine said it is not the assessment of dyscalculia which is important, rather the T & L you put in place meets the needs of the student.

That post gave you some excellent advise and suggested reading; I would recommend Haylock & Cockburn Understanding Mathematics for Young children; don't be put of by the Young Children bit as the material provides theory and practical classroom advise for those working at your students level.

You mention Place Value; this is of course a High Value topic and practical experience using the resources I mentioned previously is essential if understanding is to be achieved. I would also suggest Place Value cards, sharing the language of PV in context and just using a variety of objects to count in groups of 10, Numicon pegs are good for this, as then the student can self check they have a group of ten by overlaying the Ten tile. This is all about a recognition of the relationship between units and tens, tens and hundreds, something which is essential if genuine understanding of PV is to be established. If you have not come across Numicon before just google it.

Games such as, Tell me about your Number, Guess  my number, Who can make the largest number you can from the digit cards on to the Tens  & Units base board are just some ways of making the learning fun. I can't emphasis enough the mix of language, concrete experience, image and symbols for each activity - Haylock and Cockburn highlight this.

Also money, 10p and 1p coins; another game - 2 pots, one with 1p coins, the other with 10p coins - real money if you possibly can. Using a dice each player takes turns, each time they throw they take the number of 1p coins indicated by the dice throw. Using a Tens frame to organise the 1p coins each time they reach 10 or more 1p coins they exchange for a 10p, lots of discussion as you play the game, winner the one with the most money after 5 throws or more if you want.

Another suggestion - do lots of making the number - with concrete materials, saying the number and writing the number activities, mix it up so sometimes you say, then make then write, then you write say and make and so on. Finally when you feel the student is understanding PV get her doing activities which invlove her moving from the abstract to the concrete and then back to the abstract when describing the number, this will demonstrate she has really got it!

Sorry it is such a long post but if you need anymore advice don't hesitate to ask and good luck with your placement and as the other post said don't feel this is all your responsibility the class teacher is ultimatley responsible and the school for this student. 

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