Dyslexic and Right-brained Children have an Aversion to Numbers

Right-brained children usually do not want to work with numbers because they find them too abstract to understand and do not know what they represent.  Most of all, unable to sequence, they find reciting numbers in sequential order too difficult to do correctly.   Seeing numbers in sequence is asking them to see the parts within the whole picture image of the series of numbers 1 to 20 or 1 to 100. Visualizing all those numbers at one time is difficult, if not impossible.  Avoid this task with young children if they have problems accomplishing it.  Too many such experiences may cause them to dislike working with letters or numbers.

However, as the students get older, they are able to visualize groups of things more easily.  They can think in groups of 10, 20, 30 and so on.  One young man when asked how he works out the basic number facts of adding or subtracting in his mind explained that he sees the numbers as groups of nuts.  For example, 8 nuts plus 6 nuts equals one group of  14 nuts.  When he works with large numbers, he can still do them in his head if he breaks the total up into groups of 10s, 30s, 50s, or 100s.   It is the remainders within a division problem that he cannot place within one of these whole groups, therefore he cannot understand what a remainder is.

Another helpful tip is to use an “X” mark to indicate each number as it is brought down to be divided.  What their minds are doing is working in the mathematical system that uses tens and powers of ten.  This ability does not always carry over to algebra which uses letters to express both known and unknown quantities, introducing more abstract symbols to be understood.

Long Division for a Dyslexic

This need for the dyslexic to see math processes in whole images makes certain shortened math procedures very difficult. Long division can make sense to the student if shown how to work through every problem of long division using all the traditional steps.  For this reason, short division or other short-cut formulas used for different math concepts can be a disaster.  How does a person who needs to visualize a specific logical process adjust when certain critical steps are removed?

A student who is predominantly right-brained and/or dyslexic will be very resistant to adapting to these shortcuts and confused and frustrated as to why they can’t understand.  These fewer steps are supposed to simplify processing a math problem but require a blind acceptance that when these shortened set of steps are followed the student will get the correct answer.   When steps are removed or changed,  a right-brained individual can no longer see the whole picture or all the steps for the process of solving the math problem and cannot accept  a teacher telling them “just do these shortcut steps and you will have the answer”.  This results with a teacher getting annoyed and the dyslexic student being completely lost.

Also right-brained individuals tend to retain a specific process or “picture” of the process of anything they are taught as the way to do it.  If the teacher starts to present a new and especially shortened version of a math procedure the student will often not be able to adapt due to the “locked” image of the first method.  Add on top of that the dyslexic student’s logical reasoning asking why another way, what’s wrong with the first?

It is also not unusual to find dyslexic or right-brained students who are gifted mathematicians who see a complicated math procedure and answer as a whole picture in their minds but are not able to separate and write down the steps because they see it all together as one image.

For the dyslexic, the process of learning to understand what the abstract concept of numbers represent and how to use them is a daunting one. However, most will eventually understand basic math and many become math geniuses though they often will do it only their way.

6 thoughts on “Dyslexic and Right-brained Children have an Aversion to Numbers

  1. We have been putting our methods in books and teaching them for about the last ten years after years of accumulating information.

    If you your would like to learn more about our methods check out our website http://www.dyslexiavictoria.ca. A number of the webpages describe them and what we believe and of course the books are for sale.

    It’s interesting that you mention having them looked at. We actually have some organizations that are talking about studying them and trying to get them accredited. We will wait and see on that.

  2. My reply is coming a long time after your post re Children having an aversion to numbers, but I found this really interesting and had to comment. I believe I’m Dyslexic and as a young school child can remember being kept back in class because I didn’t understand maths. I felt like I was being punished rather than helped, despite the teacher trying really hard to get through to me. This was way back in the mid 1960’s and I feel like I’ve had a maths phobia ever since. At about the age of nine my coping strategy for answering class questions on equations (using mental arithmetic) was to project an image of the equation onto the classroom ceiling and then work it out. This worked fine for a few weeks until my teacher sneered at me in front of the whole class and said “the answer isn’t written on the ceiling.” Of course for me it was. After that fateful episode I seemed to lose faith in my ability to cope. I still find it really hard to hold numbers in my head unless they relate to something I already know. In my job I have to remember a lot of security codes. If the number was 556 I will remember it by saying I’m in my fifties…so it becomes fifty five and then comes six which is after five. If a code started with 8 then 5 I would remember it as 85, the age my grandmother was when she died. I would love to be more confident with maths, but I think the phobia gets in the way.

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