Math Learning Disability Strategies

Students can use an abacus for help with computation.

Students who suffer from math learning disabilities have a form of dyscalculia. According to the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV,” dyscalculia occurs when mathematical ability is substantially less than expected considering age, intelligence and education. Dyscalculia sufferers can use learning strategies to alleviate the magnitude of this disorder. These accommodations can be easily integrated into classroom and home learning.

Classroom Learning

Provide detailed instructions for each problem. Do not assume students have any previous knowledge that is more than a basic skill. Allow students to copy the problem as you write it on the board. Another option is to provide students with note taking aids such as graphic organizers and fill-in-the-blank worksheets. Use computer games and learning software to keep students engaged. Videotape each lesson and allow students to view the video at home. Provide tutoring before and after school. Seek out students who will assist the student with the math learning disability. Show students use an abacus, a hands-on tool that can be used to master computation.

Provide students copies of the lesson in advance so they can review the lesson before it is presented. Review the lesson privately with the student after class. Have the student explain the lesson in their own words.


Have students explain the purpose of each problem and how they solved it. Patterns often surface regarding types of mistakes. For example, students may confuse variables and expressions such as 10x — 4 and 10(x — 4).

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After classroom instruction, provide guided practice. Step-by-step worksheets guide students through the problems. The worksheets should lead into problems that provide more independent practice. Study worksheets should be evaluated on a daily basis. Offer feedback, strategies for each math concept and check for common mistakes.

Test Taking

Students who have dyscalculia should be allotted more time to take a test. If possible, allow students to take the test one-on-one with you in the classroom. Math anxiety is a classic symptom of dyscalculia and your presence can quell anxieties, enabling the student to focus on math.

Provide scratch paper and pencils for students to work through computational problems and show their work. Allow students to use a calculator if the math concepts tested are higher level than basic computation and arithmetic.