Learning Disabilities in Mathematics

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In Virginia, mathematics disability is recognized as one of the conditions under the category of Specific Learning Disability (SLD). According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004) and the Regulations Governing Special Education Programs for Students with Disabilities in Virginia (“the Virginia Regulations”) at 8VAC-20-81-10, Specific Learning Disability is an umbrella term used to describe:

“a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual abilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.”

Mathematics disability, frequently referred to as dyscalculia or developmental dyscalculia, is defined as:

“the inability to understand and remember mathematics concepts, rules, formulas, basic computation skills, and sequence of operations. Students with dyscalculia have poor understanding of number concept and the number system and skills that are the foundation of higher order mathematical skills.”

VDOE Resources

Outside Resources

  • Concrete-representational-abstract approach to mathematics instruction is a module provided by LD@School.
  • How Various Learning and Attention Issues can Cause Trouble in Math is an article on Understood.org that discusses how various leaning and attention issues contribute to difficulties with mathematics and provides suggestions for strategies and supports.
  • The Iris Center is a great resource for evidence-based strategies for students with mathematics difficulties, such as schema instruction, explicit instruction, and metacognitive strategies.
  • National Center on Intensive Intervention developed a series of mathematics lessons to support special education and mathematics teachers working with students who have difficulty with mathematics.
  • National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) has a Teaching with Accessible Math page which focuses on tools for making math notation more accessible to learners through the use of text-to-speech, handwriting and speech recognition, and other supports.
  • Parent and Family Engagement contains guidance to teachers provided by NCTM past President Diane J. Bars on how to engage parents and families to support their children’s learning of mathematics.
  • Response to Intervention (RTI) is described on Understood.org and includes information as to how it relates to special education.
  • Software Programs for Kids with Math Issues on Understood.org shares several assistive technology devices that can support a student who has difficulty with mathematics.
  • Strategies Can Parents Use to Support Students with LDs in Math are strategies for parents provided by LD@School.
  • The UDL Guidelines describes tools used in the implementation of Universal Design for Learning, a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn.
  • What Works Clearinghouse reviews the existing research on different programs, products, practices, and policies in education. Their goal is to provide educators with the information they need to make evidence-based decisions.
  • Youcubed has a page designated to special education and includes several resources in terms of mathematics disabilities and growth mindset.