Discalculea is a specific issue with Number, this is explored eslewhere however dyslexics also can have their own ways of coping with number.
You will see a lot written about the Dyslexics issues relating to reading and language, but there can also be issues with number, what does this mean and what are the implications?
In the loosest sense words, letters, number and communication can all be grouped as ‘Language’ it is the use of these symbols or codes that allows us to communicate meaning – and mathematics is no different.
The following quotation from the eminent physicist Albert Einstein – who was also dyslexic sums up the issue relating to words and number or ‘Language’.
“The words of language, as they are written or spoken, do not seem to play any role in my mechanism of thought. The physical entities, which seem to serve as elements in thought, are certain signs and more or less clear images.”
Dyslexics often have complex coping strategies to assist in their translating tasks into thought, and then the answers back into language, and this also can dependant on the individual dyslexic include number.
For example number sequences can be remembered musically, some words are remembered pictorially and even typing can be done by patterns or shapes rather than letter keys.
Dyslexics can struggle with abstracts, like numbers. The number 6 is a symbol which is intangible it has no connection to anything whereas ●●●●●● actually is 6 items and becomes tangible so in dyslexic maths 6 – 4 = 2 may be:
6 then converted to ●●●●●●, minus 4 then converted to ◦◦◦◦, this then equals the overlay of ●●●●●● with ◦◦◦◦ to give ●●◦◦◦◦, which results in the residue of ●●, which can then equate to the intangible answer 2!
While others will remember the image of 6 – 4 = 2 and match it to the question without completing the maths!
The strategy used will depend upon if the question is spoken or written, and the coping mechanism will vary for each individual.
Now this may seem overly complex but remember the dyslexic is doing this type of coping strategy all the time and it often appears seamless, so the massive amount of extra and unseen work done often far exceeds that of the non dyslexic within the same time frame.
When completing mathematical problems dyslexics may use fingers as substitutes for numbers, much as you see in children, but you may also mistake the involuntary responses in the fingers triggered by the manipulation of the components of the visual images in their 3d model of the problem.
Dyslexics may remember telephone numbers using a coping strategy and deliver them to a recipient in a particular pattern such as 01179-225-189 if the number is then read back by the recipient in a different pattern maybe 0117-922-518-9 the Dyslexic may not even recognise the number as theirs never mind assess its accuracy.
Without a coping strategy some Dyslexics will struggle to recall a group of three numbers immediately after being shown, but where the coping strategy is employed the results will be significantly improved.
Coping strategies develop organically for each individual based on a mix of results from a combination of an underlying talent, or predisposition, from environmental influences and unsuccessful learning experiences.
As a result, no two dyslexics will have exactly the same set of qualities. It is this that makes providing support for the Dyslexic difficult as there is not a one size fits all solution to providing support.