Children with dyslexic issues can be taught abstract concepts like measurements but they need to experience them with some sort of real world connection. As well, most begin to develop the ability to understand abstracts when they get to about 12 to 14 years of age. Here is a simple way to introduce measurements in a way that can make sense to these kids.
Introduce the idea of measurements by having them measure an object, like a door or window, with a 3 foot ruler or met stick. Before you start this process though, you have to explain what to do first but even more importantly you need to explain to them why they need to know how to do this. When will they ever need to know how to measure anything at all? You could explain that you are going to build a new play house and need to know how big the new door or window will need to be or maybe they will build a tree house or a fort and they might need to know these things too. Keep the measurements simple, there is no need to break the measures into inches or centimeters yet, just a whole ruler or meter stick.
Now is a good time to explain that the longest side of the door or window is the length and the shorter measurement is the width. The reason we use a door or window is because these are real world items and they make more sense to the dyslexic child than just a picture of a square or rectangular box.
There are lots of things to measure and once the child gets the idea that these are concrete, real items that are being measured, the abstract concept of measurement starts to make sense to the child.
From here you can start to introduce inches or centimeters on the measuring stick. Use a shorter measuring stick to measure a book and let the student know the object is to figure out how big a box needs to be to mail the book to a friend or to wrap it up as a present.
The really important concept here is to help the child understand that there is a purpose to measuring things and learning how to do it. Once they start to understand what measurement is all about they will be much better prepared to learn about other mathematical concepts like: weights, fractions, estimating size, etc.
Karey Hope deGraaf
Co founder Dyslexia Victoria Online