Dyscalculia: Middle School Accommodations
Middle school can be a tough time for any student, but for children with Specific Learning Disorders (SLD), there are extra struggles. For students with dyscalculia, middle school is when their future math path is set, usually according to their disability rather than their abilities. Having an IEP that allows students to work around their SLD can help them demonstrate what they know and stay on the right math track in high school. Here are some IEP accommodations that directly target dyscalculia:
Extended Time: Extended time of 50% or 100% gives students time to think, time to remember, and time to check their work. This should apply to all quiz and test situations.
Calculator or Times Table Chart: Many math teachers are
surprisingly proud of their "No calculator" rule. Unless the math skill being assessed is basic fact memorization (which happens in 2nd through 4th grade and is not recommended for people with dyscalculia), a calculator, times tables list, or multiplication chart is a helpful tool that allows the student to focus on grade level-appropriate math topics like graphing, functions, solving equations, and working with variables. They should be allowed at all times (classwork, homework, quizzes, and tests).
Formula or Reference Sheet: Dyscalculia causes people to lose math information they've already learned. In class, a student may learn the procedural steps of Combining Like Terms or the difference between perimeter and area, and forget by the time they take a quiz or test. That comes from an issue in the parietal lobe of the brain, not from practice, studying, or trying hard. Formula sheets and reference sheets help students access what they learned in class and apply it; they act as a bridge between dyscalculia and student understanding.
Teacher or Peer Notes: Many people with dyscalculia also have visual-spatial or working memory issues. This means that listening, watching, comprehending, and writing all at the same time are too many things to do at once if we want any learning to happen. Students should be given a copy of class notes, or allowed to take a picture of the board for copying later, so they can focus on what's being said in class.
IEP goals are different. They are based on a student's performance, taken from tests or other class activities. For example, if a student takes a placement test and gets most of the word problems wrong, then an IEP goal might say, "By the end of the first 9 weeks, Tanya will correctly answer 4 out of 5 word problems involving perimeter and area, 80% of the time". That's a great goal. Just make sure the IEP also includes a path from here to there: having extended time to check her resources and her work, having a reference sheet to confirm the appropriate formula, and using a calculator to check multiplication facts. Note that Tanya still has to understand that the length of a border or gate means "perimeter" while planting grass or painting a wall means "area". The accommodations simply make it possible for the student to apply this knowledge without being penalized because their brain confused the two, or dumped the 6's multiplication facts.