Mathematics Learning Disorder Treatment & Management

Updated: Dec 12, 2016
  • Author: Bettina E Bernstein, DO; Chief Editor: Caroly Pataki, MD  more...
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Treatment

Approach Considerations

Early remediation of mathematical learning disorder (MD) is crucial to ensure the child's recognition of mathematics' significance not just in the classroom but also in everyday life. Based on the new information available for reading disorders (RDs), new strategies designed for educators to guide and help nonperforming students improve are available. Work is still needed to identify the basic problems with mathematical learning disorder, however there may be a verbal subtype of MD that involves problems with phonological awareness reflected in impairment of counting speed, number processing, and fact recall, however it is unknown at this time if the processing deficit is specific to symbolic magnitudes or nonsymbolic magnitudes involving conceptual processing and the recall of semantic information from memory. [8, 15]

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Medical Care

Management of mathematical learning disorder

Mathematical learning disorder (MD) management should begin early in a child's educational career. Unfortunately, mathematical learning disorder is usually not recognized early enough or management is delayed until other problems (eg, language disabilities) are addressed.

Many children perceive mathematics as a subject confined strictly to mathematics class and homework. Early remediation of mathematical learning disorder is crucial to ensure the child's recognition of mathematics' significance not just in the classroom but also in everyday life. Based on the new information available for reading disorders (RDs), new strategies designed for educators to guide and help nonperforming students improve are available. Work is still needed to identify the basic problems with mathematical learning disorder, which will help create improved strategies to help children. Meanwhile, the following guidelines are indicated to help children with this pervasive disability.

Remediation demands close collaboration between regular classroom teachers and those involved in remedial support. Many children with underachievement in mathematics are eligible for legally mandated special education services in public schools. Wide differences are observed in service eligibility requirements, and the quality and intensity of services markedly vary between communities. Identifying the disability of each student and addressing it at the individual level is still important. General remediation guidelines are as follows:

  • Underdeveloped subcomponents

    • Intervening at the level of the individual subcomponents is essential (see Causes).

    • A tutor, a regular or resource classroom teacher, and, under certain circumstances, a parent can help the student work on the specific underdeveloped subcomponent. The concept is for the child to work more on the underdeveloped subcomponent than on getting the correct answer. Examples include supervised practice for a student with poor pattern recognition, designed to review word problems and to identify the key words or patterns that suggest a particular procedure. In another example, a child whose automatic recall of mathematics facts is delayed should practice recalling facts under timed conditions.

    • Whenever possible, exploit a child's developmental strengths and subject area affinities. A good visualizer should study correctly solved problems and make use of diagrams and other graphic material. A highly verbal child should learn mathematics by trying to teach the subject. In some instances, use of educational software can facilitate learning at the level of the deficient subcomponent.

  • Bypass techniques

    • Within regular classroom settings, an often desirable teaching method is to circumvent the deficient mathematical task component. This bypass technique enables a child to learn mathematics despite the presence of a deficient subcomponent. Examples include allowing students who are weak at recalling mathematical facts to use calculators when solving word problems.

    • Time may be used as another bypass strategy. Students with delayed automatization may take an extremely long time to finish a problem. The bypass strategy for these students may consist of giving them more time to complete the problems or expecting them to solve fewer problems.

  • Teaching real-life mathematics

    • Children who have too many deficient components or who have deficient curricular abilities require consistently innovative teaching methods.

    • Sameness analysis and real-life situations are examples of innovative methods that enable children to learn basic mathematics techniques.

  • Environment

    • Provide an ideal environment for work, with few distractions and an adequate supply of tools (eg, pencils, erasers, graph paper).

    • Some children may need a tutor outside the regular classroom to help focus on the child's disability and avoid classroom pressure.

  • Management of neurodevelopmental dysfunctions

    • Mathematics performance may be impaired by other neurodevelopmental dysfunctions (eg, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD], language disabilities). Treating these respective problems may greatly enhance mathematics skills.

    • Selected modes of cognitive training may help improve concept formation, problem solving skill, and, most importantly, memory.

  • Improving curriculum

    • Research has revealed that, on average, poor mathematics performance in the United States may be linked to a deficient curriculum in comparison to curricula used in other nations.

    • In-depth analysis of the curriculum, together with incorporation of various suggested new changes, might improve overall national performance in mathematics.

  • Future research

    • A growing movement in the field of mathematical learning disorder acknowledges "number sense." [6]

    • A "phonemes" concept suggests that an understanding of sound and letters helps develop strategies for educators. "Number sense" is a similar concept.

    • Gersten et al believe that this is a concept of numbers learned in early childhood and may play a crucial role in understanding of mathematics teaching, especially to children with disabilities. [16] Further research is needed prior to development of concrete strategies towards this goal.

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Consultations

Neurodevelopmental or neuropsychological testing can yield valuable information about the underlying dysfunctions that may impede mathematical learning. These dysfunctions include the following:

  • Attention deficits

  • Visual-spatial weaknesses

  • Language disabilities

  • Memory problems

  • Poor sequential organization

An education diagnostician or psychoeducational specialist should examine all areas of academic performance. Educational testing of a child with mathematics underachievement should be performed on a 1-to-1 basis. Other academic difficulties (eg, spelling, writing) often lead to mathematics underachievement.

Evaluation of a child's mathematics performance should be calibrated specifically to that child's age and grade level. Identification of specific developmental subcomponents may have significant implications for remediation efforts. Include the following parameters in a standard examination:

  • Speed and accuracy of factual recall

  • Appreciation of quantity (ie, quantity in relation to number concepts)

  • Recall and appreciation of algorithms

  • Ability to interpret and solve word problems

  • Level of concept mastery

  • Quality of attention to detail

  • Work pace

  • Child's affect

  • Student's approach to problem solving

  • Extent of automatization

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