A Review of The Dyscalculia Assessment
This volume is more than just a way to assess or diagnose math difficulties. It also offers strategies for meeting the needs that the assessment identifies.
A Clear Lay of the Land
Although students with dyslexia and dyscalculia share the inability to distinguish or use written symbols, they may not have much in common. Not nearly as much research has been done to help students with dyscalculia as there has been for students with dyslexia. In both cases, students face challenges with using and interpreting symbols. Ironically, children who have strong reading skills may at the same time struggle with number systems and comprehending understanding math, both theoretical and practical.
In creating their assessment, the authors of The Dyscalculia Asessment do a good job of addressing the challenges that children with dyscalculia face. They include:
- Poor Number Sense. Children with dyscalculia have difficulty seeing the relationship between symbols(numbers) and concrete objects.
- Weak long term memory. Children with weak long term memory have difficulty retaining math facts and gaining “automaticity” with math facts.
- Weak short term memory. Some children have difficulty remembering the question before they have answered it. New information has to be in short term memory between 20 and 30 minutes before it is downloaded into long term memory.
- Working memory difficulties. Working memory is used to access prior knowledge and executive function. It is critical for understanding what you need to do to solve multi-stepped math problems.
- Sequencing difficulties.Having difficulty sequencing is going to cause serious challenges when it comes to long division or multi-digit multiplication.
The Assessment: A Mix of Objective and Subjective
The assessment is anything but a “quickie.” The authors recommend that you take the time to record observations about the child’s strategies for solving problems as they approach them. The only thing that separates this from the ongoing evaluation that I do is the fact that is the authors isolate and lay out the different aspects of math that you will be measuring.
Each section of the assessment is provided in the volume on a single page. The assessment pages are also provided as pdf’s on the web at a website provided by the publisher, which is easy to register for and access. That alone makes creating the assessment easy, which I prefer to cutting up the book.
When administering the assessment you ask the children to listen and write the calculations. It doesn’t provide any visuals for the administration, which for some students with dyscalculia may create significant roadblocks to success.
Despite the shortcomings of the assessment the tools provided by the publisher make it easy to access.
It is, none the less, a time consuming process, which may in some cases be a luxury to administer. It also requires that the assessor brings experience to the the process, and there is some room, through administration, to both observe and distort what the observer is seeing.
Strategies for Remediation
A full third of the volume is dedicated to providing strategies to remediate student’s weaknesses and shortfalls in the basic math abilities laid out by the authors. In my humble, special educator’s point of view, this section alone justifies the $65 price. The chapters dedicated to remediation lay out all the resources for Individual Education Plan writing and provide strategies for special education students. Those strategies include lots of games, a powerful way to review and reinforce math skills and make practice of math facts lots of fun.
Chapter 5 not only includes how to interpret the assessment, it includes specific strategies and lesson plans to remediate the specific difficulties. They lay out lots of valuable visual methods to help students see and understand the math concepts they are learning (see counting mats.) They also recommend Cuisenaire rods, color coded rods for each o fhte numbers. There is no question that lots of hands on activities are critical for success.
At $65 this is not a cheap book. It can be purchased online for less. It is a serious investment.
Still, this is an excellent resource, and I would recommend it for purchase to place in a school’s special education library, where many teachers can reference the book to deal with students with intractable problems. Or, a school might decide that one special education teacher would be the “math specialist,” who would assess students with serious math disabilities using the assessments, and providing remediation ideas for the child’s special educator.
Jerry Webster, About.com Guide
Extensive information at: DyslexiaA2Z.com