Math learning disability is the result of anomalies in the math processing areas of the brain, resulting in little, no, or inconsistent encoding, decoding, memory, processing, and retrieval of math facts, processes, and applications. The student is handicapped by poor memory, visual-spatial impairment, directional and organizational confusion, processing errors and limitations, and extreme anxiety when presented with math tasks. These problems are NOT CAUSED BY anxiety; the anxiety is a stress response to frustrating processing inefficiencies over which the student has no control.
Math anxiety is a symptom of math processing difficulties. The math processing center of the brain is overwhelmed by math tasks and shuts down. Sometimes, even when using deliberate processing strategies, students suffer hiccups in processing that result in the inability to think, communicate, recall or proceed. Controlling for these natural phenomena is not a matter of will or determination. The best the dyscalculic can do is accept that these hiccups will occur, and devise means of gracefully recovering and proceeding with the tasks at hand.
The dyscalculic suffers from insufficient working-math-memory, and inconsistent storage and retrieval in long-term-math-memory. In rehabilitative therapy, the student can be taught strategies for coping with these processing limitations.
SOME MANUAL MATH TIPS: Use graph paper to organize numbers on the page; use guides to isolate rows and columns of numbers; use of colored erasable pens/pencils to color-code operations (+/-/*/÷) (subtraction=red, addition=black, multiplication=blue, division=green). Use reference sheets or books for math facts, rules, vocabulary, sequences. Allow area to illustrate problems. Allow the dyscalculic to talk through math processes and reasoning. Assign a TA or partner to listen and look for dyscalculic errors and to provide appropriate correction and direction. Use a calculator but learn how to use it effectively first! (Renee M. Newman)