Just as some children have Dyslexia (difficulty with the written symbols of letters and words), some children have difficulty with its sister condition, Dyscalculia.
An article in this week’s Jerusalem Post discusses how Dyscalculia can be easily diagnosed by determining how well a child as young as age 3 is able to estimate. “The National Institutes of Health showed that the innate capacity to estimate is impaired in children who have a math learning disability.”
For example, if shown 8 dots, can the child tell you if the number is closer to 10 or to 5? Can the child determine which number is greater or lesser than the other?
The article featured an individual who had taken intermediate algebra six times before a teacher finally stumbled on a way to explain formulas so the student could understand. It seems that students with Dyscalculia are often able to grasp complex mathematical concepts, but choke at the most basic tasks of addition and multiplication.
Although my ADD is greater than my Dyscalculia (I understand that 8 is greater than 5), I have always had difficulty figuring how much to tip or which line is moving faster in a store. At first, I had tremendous difficulty with Algebra until one day the thought struck me that Algebra was, basically, a game—each problem a mystery to be solved. I have always loved games; so, once I entered the “game” called Algebra, Algebra became one of my favorite pastimes. If I had not made this discovery, I might have become a statistic like what Sylvan Learning Center recently discovered: “…about 1/3 of students surveyed would sacrifice a month of fun activities if they could never have to do algebra again….”
As an educator, my greatest concern is the long-term damage to an individual’s self-worth caused by the continual comparison between students that is so endemic in an institutional educational setting (i.e. public and private schools). Studies show that Dyscalculia is in no way related to IQ; that people with Dyscalculia are often highly intelligent, but suffer from low self-esteem due to having been compared with others over many years.
A few years ago I read that 85% of 2nd graders (read that again: second graders!) consider themselves failures. I am forced to repeat this: By the time a child is in 2nd grade he or she is most likely to consider himself/herself an academic failure. Why? Again, comparison.
John Gatto (former New York State Teacher of the Year) states that public schooling is, basically, a “competitive sport” at which only a few can win and most lose.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, one of the main reasons we must raise our own children (including providing for their education) is that we are the only ones capable of treating them as individuals. In our homes, each child is not compared to any other. Each is allowed to be the individual he or she really is. By contrast, it is virtually impossible for an institutional setting to individualize education. No one ever asks, “How much math is enough for this person?” Or, “What kind of math does that person really need to succeed in life?” Or, “Is there a different way to present math to my child so he ‘gets’ it?”
Does your child “Get Math”? Many of my former blogs deal with this topic.
I always appreciate your comments and feedback to anything I write…
P.S. Consider bringing your students to tour Israel with me this summer: visit www.HomeschoolTravel.com. This will be our 10th year!