Learning Disabilities and Assistive Technologies Guide: Chapter 5 - Math

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Problem: Math difficulties can be a challenge to remediate and/or accommodate. Many students with disabilities have histories of academic failure that contribute to the development of learned helplessness in math. Students may practice computing division facts but do not understand what division means. This lack of understanding fosters the student’s dependency on the teacher and promotes the belief that external help is needed to solve problems correctly. People with LD who have math problems usually have visual perception difficulties which affect their ability to see likenesses and differences in shape and form.

They may experience conceptual problems with

  • measurements: What is a 2 by 4? Is a quarter of an inch smaller than three- sixteenths?
  • volume: Is a half-cup larger than a fourth-cup?
  • computation symbols: What is 37 x 3? What is 1/16 ÷ 3/7?

Because math symbols represent a way to express numerical language concepts, language skills become very important to math achievement. Many students with learning disabilities have reading difficulties that interfere with their ability to solve word problems. The fear of failure and low self-esteem cause students to become so tense that their ability to solve problems and to learn or apply math concepts is impaired. Confused thinking, disorganization, avoidance behavior and math phobia are common results.

The Individual with math difficulties:

☐ has trouble with mathematical concepts ( >,<, x , - ,+,=);

☐ demonstrates inconsistent mastery of math facts and procedures;

☐ has trouble with following sequential procedures and directions with multiple steps;

☐ has problems with math concepts in word problems;

☐ has trouble with left/right orientation;

☐ confuses similar numbers (e.g., 7 and 9; 3 and 8) or transposes numbers;

☐ reads numbers out of sequence;

☐ has difficulty managing money;

☐ has trouble balancing a checkbook;

☐ cannot do written calculations;

☐ cannot do simple mental calculations;

☐ has trouble with basic skills assessment;

☐ has difficulty using a calculator;

☐ cannot count money or make change;

☐ has trouble with measurement;

☐ has difficulty conceptualizing time and space.