Mathematics and Dyslexia Part II

What can we learn from mathematics educators who have dyslexia, or whose children have dyslexia? In a serious of posts a year ago, Paula Beardell Kreig wrote some thoughts about working with her children, who have dyslexia. I recommend reading through both posts.

Here is the first:

And here is the second

What are the implications of what she suggests? How can we build on this work in the classroom?

Beyond Differentiation

The following post includes links from a presentation on October 17, 2016.

A blog post explaining neurodiversity

A great book to learn more about neurodiversity in classrooms: Armstrong, T. (2012). Neurodiversity in the classroom; Strength-based strategies to help students with special needs succeed in school and life. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Universal Design for Learning by CAST

Research on links between dsylexia and spatial processing

Blog post by a dyslexic mathematician

The Dyslexic Advantage website


PDF of Differentiation Talk (draft)

Memoirs written by people with learning disabilities referenced in the presentation

Abeel, S. (2005). My Thirteenth Winter: A Memoir. New York, NY: Scholastic.

Arrowsmith-Young, B., & M.D, N. D. (2013). The Woman Who Changed Her Brain: How I Left My Learning Disability Behind and Other Stories of Cognitive Transformation (Reprint edition). Simon & Schuster.

Jr, Jackson. J. T. (2010). Shhhhhhh, I Have Something to Say: The Joe Thomas Story. S.l.: PublishAmerica.

Peel, R. (n.d.). My Dyslexic Journey.  Retrieved from

Rodrigues, J. (2013). High School Dropout to Harvard: A Dyslexia Success Story. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Young, K. (2012). Smart on the inside: A true story about succeeding in spite of learning disabilities. Highland Park, IL: Writers of the Round Table

Young, S. (2011). How I Learned.

Collections of narratives written by individuals with learning disabilities

Connor, D. J. (2007). Urban Narratives: Portraits in Progress; Life at the Intersections of Learning Disability, Race, and Social Class. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Rodis, P., Garrod, A., & Boscardin, M. L. (2001). Learning disabilities and life stories. Allyn and Bacon.


Numberless Word Problems

I have loved the work I have discovered on Twitter on Numberless Word Problems. Discussing word problems without including numbers is a great way to help students make sense of problems instead of making “number salad,” when they just toss the numbers around without any clear idea of how they relate.

This kind of sense-making is particularly important for kids with disabilities, who have often been exposed to key-word strategies which TEACH them not to make sense of the situation, but to pull the numbers out and use tricks to find out the operation. So, some kids have been TAUGHT to ignore their own sense-making in favor of a method that works about 40% of the time (keywords).

Numberless Word Problems are a great way to re-introduce sense-making, in tandem with Notice and Wonder problems, which also begin in sense-making rather than teaching kids to make number salad.

 has collected great posts from around the #MTBOS on numberless word problems, as well as sets of CGI story problems that begin without numbers, and gradually add them in.

Including Learners with Disabilities in Meaningful Mathematics

The following post includes links from a presentation for the UCLA Math Project on May 3, 2016

Don’t Mourn For Us by Jim Sinclair

Loud Hands, a project of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network

Growth vs. Fixed Mindsets and math on youcubed (along with other brain research, such as neuroplasticity)

Universal Design for Learning by CAST

Research on links between dsylexia and spatial processing

Blog post by dyslexic mathematician

Download a copy of Foote & Lambert 2011 ( the article on students with IEPs and their participation in a relational thinking CGI routine)

Contemplate and Calculate:An instructional routine that can help students with LD ( and all learners!) engage in the mathematical practice standards. This link takes you to TEDD, which gives an overview of the activity.

Using Contemplate Then Calculate with students with significant disabilities, a blog post by Andy Gael, an advocate for including kids with disabilities in meaningful mathematics.

A list of resources on Complex Instruction by James Sheldon, another advocate for including kids with disabilities in meaningful mathematics.




Developing meaningful mathematics goals for IEPs

In the last few months, several educators have asked me some variant of the following question:

How do we shift students’ IEP goals from rote memorization to meaningful mathematics?

IEP goals are the heart of instruction for students with disabilities. In my experience, a narrow goal can contribute to all sorts of unintended consequences for a child’s mathematics. Continue reading “Developing meaningful mathematics goals for IEPs”

Constructivism is a theory of learning, not of labeling

I deeply believe that knowledge is constructed in relationship to what we already know. Understanding means constructing a web of connections, ideas, experiences, etc.  So I am certainly a constructivist in mathematics, although I tend to see individual children as learning through not only their own experience, but through engagement with others, and through social positioning. I also believe that students with disabilities learn in this same way, since it is outrageous to assume that the learning process is completely different for certain people. This is not an idea that everyone agrees with. Continue reading “Constructivism is a theory of learning, not of labeling”