Solutions for Dyslexic Children Learning Measurements

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

“Family Math Fun” for Dyslexic Children

I have found a wonderful math manual for preschool through second or third grade that would be very useful to all kids, Dyslexic or not.

The manual is called “Family Math Fun” by Kate Nonesuch.

The activities are based on real world applications that teach the child about different math concepts.  She finds ways to use our natural environment to understand; counting, adding things together, what numerals are, different purposes for  numbers suchas names, addresses, phone numbers,  learning about measurement, how to use money and many other simple but effective and fun mathematical ideas.

Young Dyslexic children have a difficult time understanding abstract concepts such as arithmetic, measurement, time and money.  They are confused when learning skills that are about sequences and artificial systems that we have created to quantify things in our lives and keep track of certain things such as what time of the day it is.

One way to help Dyslexic children understand these abstract ideas is to relate them to real things or situations that will have meaning to them.  This will help them visualize and process mathematical problems they are studying in the classroom.  “Family Math Fun” is a great source for activities that teach Dyslexic students about math in their environment.

The book is a free download but is copyrighted and only meant for personal and educational use.  You can find it with this link:

A sample activity:

Setting the dishes out

Maybe you’re handling the plates, and a little one can help withthe forks and knives and spoons.Very little ones won’t count at all.

You might ask, how many plates do we need? One for grandma, 1 for grandpa, 1 for brother, 1 for sister, and so on, pulling out a plate as you say each name. Then, how many forks? Let the little one get out a fork for each person as you name them again. Then, how many knives? The little one can pick out a knife for each name, again. As they begin to count things, you could first count: How many people for supper? Name and count each one.Let’s say 7, for example. You count out 7 plates. Then ask, how many forks? You may have to count the people again, or maybe count the plates, or maybe the kid will remember. Let the kid count out the forks.

Again, how many knives? Let the kid count out the knives.  In any case, while everybody is eating, you’ll get a chance to check that everybody has a fork and knife and plate, and congratulate yourselves on the counting.’

For more ideas on understanding how Dyslexics perceive mathematicalconcepts and how to teach these skills we suggest ordering our books:

“Dyslexia or Being Right-brained” or “How the Right Brain Learns”.

Cheers and Happy New Year!

Karey Hope

Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

Dyslexia is a Learning Difference, not a Learning Disability

In our Dyslexia Awareness workshops we talk extensively about how we look at Dyslexia as a learning difference or style, not a learning disability.  However for the last twenty-five years “Dyslexia” has been used incorrectly as a common term for a wide range of learning disabilities.  I heard one teacher refer to it as an “umbrella” for any type of reading, spelling or writing problem.  If a person can’t learn to spell or read they must be dyslexic.

Another common perception of Dyslexia that irks us is the medical opinion that Dyslexics are broken.  Their brains are wired wrong.  Without this particular wiring we would not have Einstein, Churchill, Leonardo Da Vinci, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, many of the actors in Hollywood, Edison, Jackie Stewart and Jay Leno to name a few. Their “faulty” wiring was part of why they became who they are.

Albert Einstein

Churchill - dyslexic

Leonardo DaVinci - dyslexic

Bill Gates - dyslexic

Richard Branson - famous Dyslexic

Edison - famous Dyslexic

Jackie Stewart - famous Dyslexic

Jay Leno - famous Dyslexic

So when we talk about a different learning style what do we mean?  Let me explain by asking a question.  Do you have a particular innate talent such as being an artist (painter, sculptor, writer, poet, etc.), musician, exceptional athlete, gifted mathematician or scientist, intuitive mechanic that can always figure out what’s wrong, star race car driver, a comedian or maybe a natural orator?

But if you do not consider yourself an artist for example and can’t draw anything more detailed than a stick figure because your brain does not provide you with the ability to draw does that make you broken?  If the highest level of math you ever managed was fractions and percentages, forget algebra, geometry or trigonometry, are you wired wrong?

If you are not proficient with these types of abilities no one realizes or cares.  No one points at you and says you have no ear for music and your singing is like listening to a cat screeching (unless you feel the need to demonstrate to everyone that you can’t sing). But if you are Dyslexic everyone notices that spelling is really difficult for you and that you can barely read or write.  You ask a lot of questions all the time before you get on with a task.  You can’t tell time or read a clock so you have difficulty with arriving somewhere on time.  You misunderstand questions unless they are really specific because you think about everything from many different directions and levels.  You have difficulty communicating because you think in images, not words and sometimes can’t find your words when you are talking so you stumble or say the wrong thing.  People might think you are stupid, lazy or annoying. These issues are hard to hide.  However nobody notices that you are not a gifted race car driver unless you are in a race.

Spelling, reading, writing and number systems were created about 3000 to 5000 years ago (depending on the authority quoted) and learning and working with them are not natural abilities we are born with like talking.  Children are trained to spell and read from a young age by using parts of the brain that have made new connections with each other to accomplish these cognitive tasks.  In Dyslexics these connections are not made the same way as they are in left-brained people who read and spell easily and well.  A Dyslexic brain processes information differently with other areas of the brain and does not respond well to left-brain teaching methods. This can result in problems with spelling, reading, identifying and understanding numbers and other tasks that are related to them.  So if reading,  spelling and numbers are not naturally hardwired into our brains why do we say a Dyslexic brain is broken if it has difficulty performing these skills?

With more and more new information coming from medical and scientific research maybe Dyslexia will finally come to be considered what we believe it is – a learning difference.  Then teaching skills for spelling, reading, writing and arithmetic can be taught in a way a Dyslexic does understand rather than forcing us to use methods appropriate for a left-brained person.

Karey Hope
Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

Karey Hope - Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

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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.