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Math Strategies for Dyslexic Students

By Marilyn Zecher, M.A., CALT

June 2017

Students with learning challenges begin to fall behind in math quite early, often before third grade. We know that learning to recognize and use quantity patterns is a core deficit in math. Students must learn the composition and decomposition of basic quantities such as what makes seven and what makes nine. They also need to understand how our place value system is organized and then to apply those early patterns across place value. If two plus three equals five, then twenty plus thirty equals fifty. By the time our students with dyslexia are in eighth grade, many are not proficient in math. Yet, they are expected to attempt algebra, a crucial course, armed with little reasoning ability and a calculator accommodation.

Parents and teachers worry about their ability to access grade-level content with below grade-level skills. And, with new approaches, students are introduced to multiple models when they do not fully comprehend one.
There are, however, some strategies that can help students with dyslexia understand core concepts and make sense of their pre-algebra and algebra content.

Let’s begin with the language. Students need to understand the meaning of key terms such as variable, equation, expression, and square. Don’t head for since most formal definitions are not
student friendly. Offer your student some non-math examples that will help him or her link to the math meaning.

Example 1: “The weather is variable at this time of year.” A variable is a letter representing a quantity that can change. Sometimes it is an unknown that we can discover, but it can also be something that can change. We use variables to create expressions and equations for making predictions and modeling. “Wow” and “oops” are expressions in English. They convey meaning but they are not complete thoughts. The math expression 2n+7 is not a complete equation. It lacks an equal sign and therefore can only be used to “evaluate” different choices or options.

Example 2: Now, let’s make a word web of all the ways we can think of to say “plus” or “add”: plus, increased by, added to, 7 greater than, 7 more than. We can also say multiplication many ways. Think of two times a number, the product of two and a number, twice a number. Now let’s construct all the ways we can say 2n + 7.

Most teachers begin with the math and expect students to comprehend the words. With students who have language challenges, begin with the words. The numbers are often easier.

The same is true for linear functions. Begin by helping your student build a model for a real life situation. Use linking cubes or even different colors of construction paper squares.

Example: If Tim pays a $10 fee to enter the climbing gym and then $2 per hour, how could we model that? Let’s build the ten as our starting value and then use different colors of paper squares to model that constant rate of change.

Using simple manipulatives, you and your student can build linear functions in slope intercept form without ever using resorting to equations. Meaningful math begins with real life applications. Reasoning mathematically is at the heart of becoming fluent in math.

My favorite models for linear functions involve high priced athletes with signing bonuses and per game salaries or depreciation of VERY expensive luxury cars. Make up some wonderful examples for working with your child and then have some fun with math.


Marilyn Zecher is a nationally certified Academic Language Therapist and former classroom/demonstration teacher, Ms. Zecher is a specialist in applying multisensory, Orton-Gillingham-based strategies to a variety of content areas. She trains nationally for The Multisensory Training Institute of the nonprofit Atlantic Seaboard Dyslexia Education Center in Rockville MD and is a part time instructor at Loyola University, Baltimore.


Orton-Gillingham literacy tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards, 614-579-6021, or email

+ eNotes Quick Study Tip: Solving Chemistry Equations

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From eNotes, which provides study guides for students (and resources for teachers as well) here are some tips for solving chemistry equations.

Solving chemistry equations isn’t easy for most students.  But practice and determination will give you confidence.  eNotes asks you to keep these three tips in mind as you do your chemistry homework.

  1. Take a moment to organize the equation before you pull out your calculator to do the math.
  2. Pay close attention to the units to make sure they are canceling correctly.  If units aren’t canceling correctly, then your answer won’t be correct.
  3. If you do a question multiple times before getting it right, make sure you look at the incorrect attempts to see where you went wrong.  Did you invert a conversion factor?  Forget to convert from kJ to J?  Miscalculate a molar mass?  This will help you make a mental checklist of potential problems in other equations.

eNotes want you to know that if you get really stuck, Editors are standing by and ready to help.  You have options for access to this help, you can choose monthly or yearly subscriptions.

eNotes is giving away an Amazon Kindle Fire every month in 2012.

Like them on Facebook as well!

Visit eNotes at

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email

+ Council for Learning Disabilities Call For Proposals: Due March 30

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The 34th International Conference on Learning Disabilities, to be held in Texas in October, is calling for proposals. 

The theme of the CLD conference is “Learning Disabilities: Looking Back and Looking Forward — Using What We Know to Create a Blueprint for the Future.”


  • Panel — Topics should be pertinent to LD and include three or more panelists; and be of use to researchers, policy makers, teacher educators, and educators.  Content should be readily applicable to their professional roles.
  • Cracker-barrel — Sessions leaders should introduce key issues, provide ample opportunities for group interaction, facilitating small-group discussion.  Controversy is okay.
  • Poster — Content should be evidence-based; might include (for example) a synopsis of an intervention study, progress monitoring tools, practices relating to pre-service training , meta-analysis/synthesis of the literature, examination of technical applications.


  • Intervention — Sessions should offer information that helps  implement practices and approaches directly, provide their  documentation as evidence-based, summarize the theory and underpinnings, include relevant data.  
  • Policy — These sessions address system-level issues, systems change, legislative/legal issues, or policy development.  Should delineate multiple perspectives, discuss how a policy impacts individuals, families and advocates.  Proposals should include an explanation of the policy, give a brief background, explain the how and why of its effects on LD people and the professionals who serve them.
  • Teacher Preparation — These sessions should describe evidence-based practices for preparing teachers, advocates and  families.  Proposals should include a description of the  practice and examples of its use in a university/clinic setting, as well as ways to measure effectiveness.
  • Research Methodology — Of particular interest: methodologies that advance the participants’ understanding of how to conduct evidence-providing research on interventions; also how to read research-based articles, follow analyses, design studies and write them up.  Proposals should describe the methodology strategies and how session participants can apply the content for themselves.

For more information and instructions for submitting a proposal, visit

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021 or email

+ Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) Offers Online Courses

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Learn about modern art in a contemporary way.  MOMA’s registration is now open for Winter 2012 courses.  Courses begin February 27.

Enrich yourself and your understanding of art. 

MOMA Courses Online invite newcomers and experienced art lovers alike.  Explore modern art in your home and on your schedule.  You will have the same instructors who teach in the MOMA’s classrooms and galleries.

Discover the fascinating stories and ideas behind some of the masterpieces in MOMA’s collection.  You’ll use a rich variety of multimedia materials, including narrated slide shows, course texts, images, and engaging, exclusive videos shot on location in the Museum’s galleries.


Instructor-Led (courses begin February 27) — For eight or 10 weeks, enjoy exclusive access to richly detailed videos, slide shos, audio and readings, plus discussion forums that allow you to interact with an instructor and peers.  $350; $300 for educators, students, seniors, other museum staff, and members. 

Self-guided (now available) — A more independent learning experience offering the same content as the instructor-led courses, without discussion forums or teacher guidance through the materials.  $200; $175 for educators, students, seniors, other museum staff, and members.


  • Materials and Techniques of Postwar Abstract Painter
  • Modern Art 1880-1945
  • Experiment With Collage
  • Modern and Contemporary Art: 1945-1898


Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021  or email

+ Khan Academy Takes YouTube Approach to Classrooms

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An article by Somini Sengupta in the NY Times describes a classroom in which the teacher wanders the room and watches each math student do their work.  He’s watching their work as it appears on the laptop he carries.

He sees a  girl zipping through her geometry exercises; he notices that one boy is stuck on long equations.  Another boy, he sees, is getting a handle on probability.

The software that has made this possible is the brainchild of Salman Khan, an Ivy League-trained math whiz and the son of an immigrant single mother.

Khan, 35, is the online sensation whose Khan Academy math and science lessons on YouTube have attracted up to 3.5 million viewers a month.

This new venture is more ambitious, and is still being tested.

This semester at least 36 schools nationwide are trying out Khan’s experiment — according to Sengupta, “splitting up the work of teaching between man (sic) and machine, and combining teacher-led lessons with computer-based lectures and exercises.”

Hundreds of companies are trying to sell their products to school systems, making confusing claims and offering big contracts.

“Why shouldn’t it be free?”

But Khan’s venture stands out, in that the lessons and software tools are entirely free.  They’re available to anyone with access to a reasonably fast Internet connection.

The core of our mission is to give material to people who need it.  You could ask ‘why should it be free?’  But why shouldn’t it be free?

Says Sengupta, it is too early to know whether the Khan Academy software makes a real difference in learning.

A limited study in Oakland this year suggests that children who had fallen behind in math can catch up equally well if they used the software or were tutored in small groups.

The research firm SRI International is working on an evaluation of the software in the classroom.

For the entire article, and more about Khan’s background and the impact of his model, visit

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021 or email

+ Ohio OCALI Autism Conference November 18-18

Don’t miss the 2011 OCALI Conference, the nation’s premier event in autism, assistive technology and low-incidence disabilities.

Mark your calendar for

  •  November 16-18, 2011
  • Greater Columbus Ohio Convention Center

Highlights include:

  • Wednesday Keynotes Larry Bissonnette and Tracy Thresher, stars of “Wretchers and Jabberers,” sponsored by VizZle
  • Thursday Keynote Dan Habib, director of Including Samuel
  • Tuesday Pre-conference  workshop facilitated by Michelle Garcia Winner (pre-conference workshop available for an additional fee)
  • NEW for 2011! National Autism Leadership Summit
  • New for 2011! UDL (Universal Design for Learning) Summit


  • Free Tuesday evening community expos
  • University Summit sponsored by The University of Toledo and Kentucky Autism Training Center
  • Parents’ Corner hosted by The Autism Society
  • Over 200 sessions by national leaders and scholars
  • An exhibit hall of over 90 leading companies and organizations

Over 2,000 participants from across the nation are anticipated


Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021  or email

+ Computerized Reading Games: Report

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From Kathie Nunley’s Educator’s Newsletter:

Four and five-year olds can benefit from computerized reading games, but only when given individualized feedback and correction. A Dutch study had a large group of low SES children use a computerized tutoring program to play games designed to improve literacy skills.

Half the children received individualized feedback including oral corrections from the computer.

Those children’s code-related literacy skills increased as a result. The children who played the games without the individualized feedback did not have skill improvement. It’s also interesting to note that children with inhibitory control problems scored disproportionately low when working in a computer environment without personalized feedback.

Kegel, C. & Bus, A. (2011). “Online tutoring as a pivotal quality of web-based early literacy programs.” Journal of Educational Psychology, preview, n.p.s.

Find Dr. Nunley’s Newsletter at   You can subscribe.

tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021  or email