CDSP: Problem


Here we describe the current state of advising for students presenting to a college with a clear history of math learning difficulties and compare it to the ideal advising experience for math learning disabled students. 


There is a great need among disability services personnel in colleges to understand dyscalculia and its implications for institutional compliance and student services.

Currently, a majority of college disability services personnel (DSP) are unaware of dyscalculia (math learning disability, MLD), and thus do not / cannot respond appropriately to students presenting with MLD who require guidance on diagnosis, documentation, accommodations, assistive technology, rights and responsibilities, support services, curriculum access, communication with instructors, department protocol, academic advising, course waivers and substitutions, and grievance procedures. 

Lacking basic awareness and understanding of math learning disability, DSP are unable to correctly advise and assist college students presenting with MLD. As  a result, MLD students repeatedly take and fail remedial math courses and attempt and fail basic math requirements, to the detriment of their GPAs, academic standing, on-time progress, financial aid, career choices, job prospects, mental health, graduation rates, and finances. Some drop out. Some loose financial aid and are forced to abort their studies. Many are unable to graduate because they met all other degree requirements but failed to pass the one math course required. 

Disability Services personnel frustrate students with these statements:

1. "There is no such thing as dyscalculia. I have never heard of it. If it existed, I would have learned about it in school or at a conference."

2. "Dyscalculia is one of those controversial "learning disabilities"  hasn't really been proven and we don't have to accept your 'diagnosis.' You're just bad at math. So what? Lots of people are." 

3. "There is no way to get a course waiver or substitution for a required math class."

4. "How can you have a learning disability when you scored so high in English and Science?"

5. "How come you just discovered this problem now, at the age of 18? Certainly you would have been identified in grade school. We cannot allow students to get special treatment or get out of university requirements. It wouldn't be fair. You can visit the free tutoring service or see your professor. There is nothing we can do for you."

6. "We can't use your IEP from high school or elementary school. You need a current diagnosis of a learning disability in order to get assistance through our office. See our website for documentation requirements."

7. "You have to take the math course here. You can't take it off campus and transfer it. You can't take it online or at a community college, either."

8. "Really, you aren't college material if you placed into remedial math. You are just lucky the university is giving you one more chance to prove you can meet college math competency requirements  in order to get a degree."

9. "Everyone can pass College Algebra if they try hard enough. You may have to put in more work, go to tutoring, and study harder, but you can do it. You have to get over your math anxiety." 

10. "You can't audit a math class and get credit for it. You  can't take it on a PASS-FAIL basis so your grade is not figured into your GPA.That's what a GPA is, an average of your highs and lows. You have to earn a recorded grade to get credit."

In CDSP 101, we will analyze each of these statements for legality and accuracy and model correct responses to advising problems, justified by law, policy and best practices.