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How Can Maths Games Help Pupils with Dyscalculia?

by Charlie

Dyscalculia is one of many reasons that a pupil may experience difficulties keeping up with maths lessons.

What is Dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia is a condition that affects the ability to acquire arithmetical skills. Dyscalculic learners may have difficulty understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers, and have problems learning number facts and procedures. Even if they produce a correct answer or use a correct method, they may do so mechanically and without confidence. The National Numeracy Strategy (DfES, 2001)

Symptoms of Dyscalculia

Typical symptoms displayed by pupils with dyscalculia include:

– difficulty when counting backwards.
– a poor sense of number value.
– difficulty to remember ‘basic’ facts, despite many hours of practice/rote learning.
– forgets mathematical procedures, for example ‘long’ division.
– addition is often the default operation.

So children with dyscalculia may have difficulty in understanding simple number concepts and have problems learning basic arithmetic skills. In everyday life, they may also feel frustrated when doing simple arithmetic tasks such as telling the time, calculating prices, and handling change.

So it is not that dyscalculic pupils do not work hard, it is because dyscalculic pupils’ brains are wired differently and this makes it hard to make sense of numbers and mathematical concepts.

Experts suggest that there are several supportive tools are effective when teaching dyscalculic pupils for instance calculators, graph paper, dot cards and, maths games.

How can dyscalculic pupils benefit from using maths games?

1. Use Games to Help Reduce Anxiety.

Many pupils who struggle in maths lessons often feel serious anxiety when it comes to doing any maths-related task.

An anxiety-free learning environment must allow dyscalculic pupils to fail with relatively no negative experience. Children (like adults) don’t like red crosses against their work, or even when there is no marking they lose self confidence knowing they did it wrong.

Games lend themselves to producing an environment in which it is safe to fail. Indeed, children are conditioned to losing in games (players die, football teams lose, failing to crush candies,…).

In a well designed maths game, a pupil can play a level again and again, failing again and again, learning from their mistakes, but not damaging their ego.

Maths games allow dyscalculic pupils to learn and practice essential maths skills in a fun and safe way.

2. Help Dyscalculic Pupils Develop their Number Sense

Most the dyscalculic pupils have difficulty in connecting numbers (the symbols) to the meaning (the value) so they can’t develop a good sense of number.

To help pupils with a number sense problem, many schools use multisensory teaching methods in class. Using a multisensory teaching method simply means helping a child to learn through more than one sense.

The best maths games are designed with multisensory teaching method in mind. For example, by tapping on numbers on a touchscreen tablet, a value becomes sensible which helps pupils connect number symbols to actual values.

3. Help them Practice.

One of the key problems for dyscalculic pupils is retention of basic facts and maths procedures in their long-term memory. As a result, dyscalculic pupils need to revisit what they learned in class a lot more than pupils without dyscalculia.

Maths apps and games can be a great help in this situation. With a maths app, pupils can practice and practice and practice, while the app helps to maintain their attention by fun and interactive game play.

4. Intervention & Catch-Up Lessons

Many teachers find it challenging to deliver effective intervention and catch-up lessons for pupils as commonly the students in the class will be working at vastly different levels and speeds.

Maths apps and games can be a great help in this situation.

Catch-Up Numeracy with Emile has been designed so that students are given relevant and appropriate games that helps them move forward with their work. Of course, it also provides comprehensive report let teachers actively monitor pupils’ progress. For a free trial of catch-up numeracy click here.

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