Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Dyscalculia and the Montessori Method

NAMC montessori method dyscalculia two students working together
Studies state that up to 7% of students are affected by dyscalculia
For many years, educators have been aware of children who have language difficulties or disorders. What many of us may not realize is that children may also have math disorders. In fact, the American Psychological Association classifies Dyscalculia as a math disorder in the DSM-IV (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Recent research suggests that up to 7% of students are affected by severe learning disabilities in math (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2012).

Dyscalculia goes beyond math anxiety. Children with Dyscalculia may have difficulties with calculation, understanding mathematical concepts, application with word problems, mathematical language, or even with number and symbol recognition.

Mathematical Disorders: Montessori Education for Discalculia

Within each area, children will have varying degrees of strengths and weaknesses. However, there are two major areas that can contribute to mathematical learning disorder: visual-spatial, where the child has difficulty processing what the eyes see; and language processing difficulties, where the child has trouble processing what he hears.

Dyscalculia is not related to IQ and is diagnosed when a child’s ability or test scores demonstrates substantial difficulty below the expected levels of age and education (Child Mind Institute). As with most learning disorders, there is no cure for dyscalculia. It is the job of the teacher to make math more understandable for the child by developing individualized learning strategies that include hands-on, exploratory learning.

With Montessori’s background in educating children with special needs, it is not surprising to learn that the Montessori math materials were designed to help students with learning difficulties. Not only are the Montessori math materials self-correcting, each material presents hands-on concrete awareness of difficult abstract concepts. Rather than presenting children with pieces of the mathematical puzzle, Montessori begins by presenting big-picture concepts first. We introduce the entire decimal system and place value to a child with the very first presentation of the Golden Bead material.
NAMC montessori method dyscalculia teacher and child working with golden bead material
Montessori materials are multi-sensory apparatus that support learning. Learning differences are not singled out, because all children use the materials to develop mathematical language, thinking, and concepts. What may be different is the length of time each child spends using the materials. Some grasp concepts easily and move on, while others spend more time interacting with the materials until the concepts are internalized. This individualized learning takes into account the mathematical strengths and weakness in all children.

Children who experience mathematical learning difficulties need not be separated or removed from the Montessori environment. Children are respected for their unique abilities and taught accordingly. The ability to individualize and differentiate the curriculum to meet the needs of each child is one of the most positive aspects of the Montessori method.
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Wednesday, January 30, 2013.


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