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Working Memory and Math facts.


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Our son, 11.5yo has several issues that affect his school work: dyslexia, dysgraphia, working memory, processing speed. His dyslexia is SO severe that his math issues have taken a little bit of a back burner although we've worked on accommodations.

 

His conceptual math skills are really really good (although he cannot grasp sequencing).

 

Primarily due to working memory issues, he really struggles with memorizing of math facts so here is what we've done so far

 

*finger abacus so that he can add/subtract

*0-9 multiples to music so he can multiply by 1 digit.

 

Due to these accommodations, while it takes him a long time, he's on grade level in math but has hit a brick wall with double digit division specifically. The past week or so, I've begun to allow him to use a calculator as long as he shows his work on paper. BUT I'm not feeling confident in this solution. His occupational therapist recommended it a long long long time ago but I feel very odd about not requiring he learn all his facts.

 

I was actually considering contacting his neuropsych and getting advice but thought I'd start here as you often has as much or more helpful info as his neuropsych. His neuropsych has been PHENOMENAL with diagnosis and recommending outside therapy but we haven't found that he's been super helpful in regards to helping us work with him at home :)

 

ANy advice/tips or even curriculum ideas would be appreciated!!!

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Our ed psych said to use a calculator. She consults with lots of families with kids in ps so I tend to rely on her to make sure that the accomodations that I give DS are ones that would be acceptable in the public setting. (I like having that "back up" for my decisions since this is all very new territory to me.)

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Our ed psych said to use a calculator. She consults with lots of families with kids in ps so I tend to rely on her to make sure that the accomodations that I give DS are ones that would be acceptable in the public setting. (I like having that "back up" for my decisions since this is all very new territory to me.)

Thank you. Our neuropsych and OT said the same thing although they were supportive of me trying "other ideas" (like the finger abacus and multiplication songs). I needed to hear that other people's "professionals" (for lack of better term) are advising them of the same thing because I was REALLY feeling like a failure *blush*. It's been a few years of trying to avoid going to the calculator. . . I'm wanting to allow it but it feels like "giving up". Because of that, it's REALLY good to hear that others are doing this as well :)

 

I fear that he will have to take a math test without a calculator if he wants to go to tech school or get an apprenticeship??? I know SAT/ACT allow calculators so ironically he'd be fine for college .

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Is there a certain program he is interested in or you think is likely? Maybe you could find out what options are.

 

My little BIL is staying with us and I have been to the technical college with him, and spoken to people about the training programs here. We didn't ask that but could have.

 

I just think it might be a relief to find out.

 

I am in favor of calculator use, too, personally.

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Ours also said to use a calculator, and she specified to get one that shows the full problem not just the answer (so, it maintains 25 + 47 = 72 rather than show the 25, then the 47 then the 72). It was also on her list of "what accommodations he would need/get in public school" so I think it's fine. What I do with my son (though he's only 8) is to show him the problem, have him type it in on the calculator and read me the answer, then I write the answer and demonstrate to him why that is the answer or the steps we would take if writing it down.

 

But, even with my NT kids, once they knew *how* to multiply, divide, etc., I would let them use a calculator even if they didn't have all the facts memorized. The practice/repetition will eventually help it sink in. I hope.

 

Our edu-psych also suggested not to change the formatting of math problems within the same page. So, to expose him to vertical & horizontally written problems, but within the span of one day, keep it all the same. In case that's an issue for yours as well. Either way, use the calculator, guilt free. Most tests and things will allow the calculator these days.

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Once a child understands the concept and has done lots of memory practice, then I allow the calculator to speed up basic calculation. I don't want a child to fall behind on developing concepts while they are still working on memorizing basic facts. This has worked well for all my children- even my NT child who had some mild difficulty with retaining basic facts.

 

My son had the most difficulty. Even at 15yo, he still had a lot of difficulty reciting basic facts, though now at 18yo I think he is *reasonably* functionally fluent. OTOH, conceptually, he's in great shape. He'll be doing Calculus II in the fall.

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When you say double-digit division, are you talking about something like 32 divided by 4 equals 8? (double digit dividend)

Or something like 144 divided by 12? (trying to do the times tables up to 12)

Or 6724 divided by 58? (a larger double digit divisor)

Just curious.

 

Are you using any particular math program?

 

Which part is causing him trouble? Recalling the steps, or the multiplication facts, or lining it up? Was he able to do double digit multiplication?

 

I would consider doing it concretely with something like Math U See if you thought the concept was still hazy, but the calculator may be a very appropriate accomodation at this point...I guess I'm trying to determine the size of the task, and whether it's time well spent with a couple of multisensory teaching strategies, or whether it's one of those things that most people rarely master all that well anyhow.

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LtoR, that's a good point! If it's the lining it up part, graph paper might help. We found some, I think at Office Depot, that is regular graph paper sized on one side but larger grid on the other side, better for writing math problems. Won't help if it's the steps to doing the double digit division, but once he does get the steps down, the paper is wonderful for keeping things lined up properly!

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Math fact memorization is the issue. His working memory is very impaired. He still doesn't know single digit addition facts by heart (we've tried several ways of memorizing facts). He uses a finger abacus to add and subtract, and uses multiple songs to calculate division and multiplication. It is doable for long addition, subtraction and multiplication - he hit a wall with long division. Yes, he can "handle" long multiplication; however, it is VERY time consuming due to the memory and processing issues. It's like walking through mud 8 inches deep -- horribly difficult. Conceptually h e is GREAT. No lining up issues, no conceptual issues. Even gets the "processes" for double digit division but the computation is a major problem.

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Our son has similar issues - working memory problems, and math facts and computation being very difficult. He learned his math facts with Mastering Mathematics. I bought it from Rainbow. For long division, it helped him a lot to use the "double division" technique.

 

http://www.doubledivision.org/

 

Making the table of doubles is quite easy, and then using them to arrive at the answer only requires addition and subtraction.

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Have you considered an OT evaluation and interactive metronome? Outside of IM, I would hand the child a calculator and move on stressing conceptual understanding with math mnemonics.

 

I used How the Brain Learns Math by Sousa and books by Ronit Bird to teach DS.

 

ETA: It has been recommended to me that I teach DS to use a Soroban Abacus. Sounds far fetched, I know...

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We had so much trouble with our oldest in math ironically the gifted one, that we have insisted that our younger children learn by mastery in math. We learned that our sons issues in math were due to a low working memory and processing speed. He was in the 20th % in both. He was 7 then and his little brother was 5. So we worked extra hard with my second son to get them right the first time. It took him quite some time to get the facts down. For five years he was "behind" in math. We did not know he was Autistic at the time or that his WM and Processing Speed were so low. My 11yo was tested last year and found to be below the 1st % in working memory and processing speed. So he is pretty severely impaired in those areas. He is not dyslexic but does have convergence insufficiency (vision problem) and dysgraphia, as well as, Asperger.

 

Unlike PPs I suggest that you go back and master addition and subtraction. Subtraction is probably your sons' problem with division. If you can't subtract, you won't be able to divide. If you can't add you can't subtract. Continue slowly in the conceptual math (sure use a calculator till he gets the basic skills memorized), but go back and do rote addition until it is down, then subtraction and then multiplication. If he can do those three then division will eventually click for him. Don't just settle. Don't say he'll never get it. Keep working with him and one day it will click.

 

I know it can be so very frustrating when you ask what is 5+2 and he says 15 or 21 and you just want to pull your hair out because you just gave him the answer to that question two seconds ago. So instead tell him 5+2 is 7 did you know that 2+5 is also 7. If you have 5 marbles and I gave you 2 marbles you would have 7 marbles. Well if you gave me 5 of your 7 marbles you would only have 2 left. Hey let's get out your marbles!

 

With my son we used manipulatives, flash cards, math dojo, math songs, one of those spinning math games, dice, dominoes, and math apps on his tablet. We spent more then an hour on fun math daily and more then an hour on drill in addition to the math curriculum. And we did those timed drill sheets, which we both hated so much but helped us speed up in our actual curriculum.

 

We had to drop some things to make room, that was hard for me. We bombarded the boy with addition until he finally got it... then we went on to subtraction, not forgetting to review addition facts daily. We used Math U See with the manipulative until it was like breathing for him. It is a lot of hard work and daily work but it is worth it in the end.

 

My 11 has a much better grasp on the higher math skills (fractions, decimals and beginning algebra) then his older brother who we didn't require to memorize facts from the beginning and doesn't have nearly as sever delay in working memory and processing speed. I would say especially if you think he may go into a technical skill set rather then college, drill the facts. If he doesn't get to geometry it's not as big an obstetrical as not being able to balance his checkbook.

 

Conceptually my son might or might not be a couple grades higher had we just let him use a calculator sure, but at this point he is at grade level and doesn't need a calculator. It was three years of intense work for my 11yo (four years for my 13 yo and he's still not quite there) I admit that. Sure he'd get accommodation in PS they don't have the time to teach a slower learner...but we do.

 

My oldest struggled through decimals, percentages and exponents while my 11 is having much less trouble simply because he has those facts down. Not having them down slows the process so much. My 13yo complains about feeling dumb because he can't remember if 6x4 is 12 or 24. Even though it took my 11 a little longer to learn that 6x4 is 24 he doesn't second guess himself on every problem because I made memorization mandatory for him.

 

Maybe mandatory drill isn't the way you will chose to go... but I just wanted to let you know that the effort put in and the gray hairs acquired is worth it and even possible with a severely delayed working memory and excruciatingly slow processing speed. You may even find that your son becomes proficient and even enjoys math as mine has.

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