Try to identify which of these areas cause you difficulty - knowledge of basic math concepts (numeration, place values, etc.)
- calculation of basic math processes
- detecting errors in calculation
- knowledge of fractions, decimals, percentages, and ratios
- application of math concepts in word problems
- solving algebra problems
- geometry
Frequently, students do not understand why they are having math problems. Students may struggle with one or more areas of math including computational math, fractions, applied word problems, geometry, and/or algebra. Cognitive processes that may underlie one or more of these areas of math difficulty could include poor abstract reasoning skills, visual spatial difficulties, sequencing problems or slow processing of information which has limited the learning of prerequisite knowledge for college math. Learning math is more challenging for some students because of - their difficulty in understanding math vocabulary (for example, set, numeral, proportion),
- poor auditory memory and word retrieval,
- difficulties in understanding and using syntax, and/or
- problems in explaining how they reached a solution.
Planning and organizational skills, and attentional factors also can impact math skills. It is important for students to understand the nature of their math difficulties and the reasons underlying them, so they can explain their needs to instructors and tutors, and choose the most helpful learning strategies. GENERAL STRATEGIES AND ACCOMMODATIONS - To improve math skills, students should begin by consulting with their learning disabilities services coordinator to select the most appropriate courses and learning strategies. Consider taking a remedial math course or using tutorial services, if you feel you need help with basic math concepts and calculation. Many students will benefit from increasing their understanding of decimals and fractions, percentages, ratios, proportions and signed numbers, with the focus on solving word problems. An introductory course which includes algebra, with an emphasis on reasoning and solving word problems rather than on calculation, may be helpful.
- To maximize the benefits of tutorial services, work with your tutor to define the aspects of math that are creating obstacles, then develop strategies to overcome or circumvent them. Think about how to highlight your strengths and use them to compensate for areas of difficulty.
- It may be appropriate to request extended time on tests, and to take your test in a distraction- free setting.
- Allow time to practice solving problems. Try to figure out where you are having difficulty, so you can request help. Ask for or create extra practice tests and homework assignments.
- Identify a sample problem to illustrate each mathematical operation or type of problem you have learned. Organize these samples into a reference guide for study and homework.
- If you are stronger verbally, use verbal mediation to talk your way through the steps of a problem. Write the steps on a cue card and use the card to work practice problems.
- If visual cues help you, try the following strategies:
STRATEGIES FOR ENHANCING BASIC CALCULATION SKILLS - Make a concerted effort to memorize math facts for addition, subtraction and multiplication. Work to understand the logic behind the answers, by looking for patterns. Allow time for repeated drill of math facts and calculations. The rapid automaticity you may achieve will allow you to allocate time and mental resources to higher level processes.
- Use a calculator, when allowed, for quick, accurate computation. A talking calculator may be helpful for students who profit from auditory input.
- If monitoring computational and process errors is a weakness, use a checklist to monitor math work for computational and process errors. The items on your list would, of course, depend on your particular difficulties.
To prevent careless errors in computation, the following strategies may be helpful:
STRATEGIES FOR ENHANCING APPLIED MATH, GEOMETRY AND ALGEBRA SKILLS - In doing applied or word problems, determine the essential information, and make a list of the steps to follow in sequence in finding the solution.
- Before solving word problems, think through the following steps:
- Have someone make up problems with extraneous information. Identify the irrelevant information. For example, there are 10 people working the evening shift at a restaurant. Six women have ordered steak, and three men have ordered salads. How many people have placed orders? (extraneous information includes "10 people," "men," "women," "steak," and "salad").
- Have someone make up problems with insufficient information. Identify the missing essential information. For example,"Bill has six more CDS than Charla. How many CDS does Bill have?" (You must have the number of CDS owned by Charla before you can solve the problem).
- Concepts of money, time and measurement may need to be strengthened. You may be able to find workbooks that provide practice, but often self-developed problems are even more effective. You will increase your understanding of math concepts both when you create a problem and when you solve it.
- With respect to practical money skills:
- To enhance time concepts, consider using the following strategies:
- To develop measurement concepts try the following exercises:
- When studying geometry, make flash cards and over learn the formuli for areas, circumference, perimeter, etc. Then create and solve problems, initially using real objects such as the area to be covered by wallpaper or the amount of lawn to be fertilized.
REFERENCES Johnson, D. Myklebust, H.R. (1967). Learning disabilities: Educational Principles and Practices. NY: Grune & Stratton. Spiers, Paul A. (1987). Acalculia revisited: Current issues. In G. Deloche & X. Seron (eds..), Mathematical disabilities: A cognitive neuropsychological perspective. (pp. 1 - 25) Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Starke, M.C. (1993). Strategies for college success, 2nd edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Tobias, S. (1978). Overcoming math anxiety. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Wren, Carol T. (1983). Language learning disabilities: Diagnosis and remediation. Rockville, MD: Aspen Systems Corporation. Vogel, S. A. & Adelman, P. B. (1993) Success for college students with learning disabilities. NY: 4. Springer-Verlaag. ERROR ANALYSIS* Most math errors can be described using the following categories. It will be helpful to know what types of errors you most commonly make. - Basic Fact Errors
- Table value
- Retrieval of an incorrect table value
- Zero/Identity
- Symbol Errors
- Loss of symbols
- Omits the symbol. May still compute correctly.
- Substitution
- Writes an incorrect sign. May still compute correctly.
- Rotation
- Rotates the "+" so it becomes "x" or vice versa. May still compute correctly, or may perform incorrect procedure.
- Algorithm Errors
- Incomplete
- Initiates correct operation, but fails to carry out all necessary steps.
- Incorrect alignment
- Incorrect sequence
- Subtraction inversion
- Inappropriate
- Substitution
- Confounded
- Inconsistent
- Place-holding Errors
- Number expansion
- Mirror reversal
- Partial reversal
- Digit errors
- Borrow and Carry Errors
- Neglect of Carry
- Defective Carry
- Incorrect Placement
- Wrong Carry
- Zero carry/borrow
- Neglect of Borrow
- Defective Borrow
*Spiers, Paul A. (1987). Acalculia revisited: Current issues. In G.Deloche & X. Seron (eds.), Mathematical disabilities: Acognitive neuropsychological perspective. (pp.1-25) Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. |
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