Tools for Teaching Math to Kids with Special Needs

Our son is developmentally delayed, with significant challenges in language use and understanding along with difficulties in generalizing concepts, imitating peers, and reasoning logically.  For years we struggled, both in public school and in homeschool, with getting across basic mathematical skills and concepts. No one seemed to understand why Tom was not "getting" basic math.

We had tried tutors; Math U See; TouchMath; Singapore Math; homemade math tools.  Tom had succeeded with every approach - for a day - but seemed completely unable to hang onto what he'd learned when presented with a new drill, approach, term or concept.  Though he could complete a page of double digit multiplication, for example, he couldn't tell you how many groups of 3 are in nine...  or remember how to complete the same page of multiplication the next day.
Tom works with Mahesh Sharma

It was time to find an expert.  And in fact I was able to find a math expert through an online search for the term "Dyscalculia." 

Dyscalculia is to math what Dyslexia is to reading -- and, like a child with dyslexia, Tom really needed an expert to help him go back to basics, grasp the significance of integers and basic mathematical concepts, and build his understanding of arithmetic and mathematical reasoning from the ground up.

What will you see in these videos?  Mahesh Sharma, Tom's tutor, uses basic tools -- playing cards, cuisinaire rods, strips of paper -- to help children with learning and communication differences to grasp the meaning of numbers and mathematical concepts.  A few examples:
  • Using playing cards without printed numbers on them, Tom learns to recognize patterns and associate them both with the names of numbers and with visual/hands-on representations of the numbers.
  • Using cuisinaire cards, Tom learns to visually comprehend the significance of greater, bigger, smaller, fewer.
  • Building on this basic knowledge and tools, Tom learns to build tens, doubles, and groups of numbers.
Over the next weeks and months, I'll be building this resource.  I'll be adding Mahesh's insights to my own, and providing links to more resources as well.  Please let me know if this resource is helpful - and what additional or different resources might be helpful to you, as well!

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Lisa Jo Rudy