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Stephanie Headon

Challenges Learners with Dyslexia Face in Maths

an Exploration of Teaching and Learning Strategies, and the use of technology to Improve Metacognition and Engagement in Maths

Stephanie Headon, University of Bolton

The number of learners who were identified as having dyslexia in further education, has almost doubled between 2008/9 and 2014/15, and account for between 9.8% (apprenticeships) and 16.5% (19+) of the FE population, yet they still have lower success rates than their non-disabled peers (Department for Education & Skills Funding Agency, 2016; Department for Education 2017; Skills Funding Agency, 2016). Additionally, the participation rate of learners with conditions described as Specific Learning Differences (SpLD), increases year on year (Department for Education, 2017).

Dyslexia can significantly impact mathematical achievement (Chinn, 2012), not just dyscalculia, at the more severe end of the mathematical difficulties spectrum. Learners have to contend with working memory and reading difficulties, and find directionality, sequencing, mathematical language development and mental arithmetic challenging (McLoughlin, Leather & Stringer, 2002; Chinn & Ashcroft, 1993). These combined with the traditional methods of teaching, learning and assessment along with qualification design and the nature of the maths, can lead to further engagement issues (Chinn, 2017; Miles, Haslum & Wheeler, 2001, as cited in Miles & Miles, 2004). This can result in the learner making not attempting questions (Chinn, 1995, as cited in Chin, 2017), as they can find it too difficult to complete the task in hand (Boaler, 2015; Perna & Loughlan, 2015; Chinn, 2017). As maths and maths assessment is judgemental (Chinn, 2017), along with the expectations around speed and accuracy, these only help to further heighten anxiety around maths, and negatively impact self-esteem, working memory and processing speed, which is already impacted by dyslexia (Boaler, 2015; Chinn, 2017). These factors consequently make including such learners, significantly challenging for maths teachers (Perna & Loughhan, 2015). Dyslexia is sometimes referred to as a gift, and learners with dyslexia often demonstrate high levels of creativity, more so than their counterparts without SpLD, which could be utilised further in maths (Kapoula et al., 2016).

The workshop will adopt a social model approach, and explore some of the challenges these learners face and why. It will also consider some specific dyslexia and SpLD friendly teaching and learning strategies to include learners and develop their metacognition, autonomy, confidence and engagement. These strategies are equally helpful to their peers who do not present with SpLD. Examples of assistive technology and useful iPad apps will also be identified to help engage learners.

The session will use iPads.

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