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Neuro-development to Overcome Mathematics Learning Disorders

It is a fact that boys generally do better at arithmetic and mathematics than girls. However, this means nothing at the individual level. There are plenty of girls that do very well in arithmetic and math along with plenty of boys that do poorly.

Many poor arithmetic students will do well with tutoring programs. Some children just did not understand the first time and will eventually be able to understand with the right instruction (e.g., multiple sensory instruction, the use of manipulatives). There are some children that will not respond to these interventions and will need remediation through neruo-development.

Much of arithmetic relies on memory. For many children, improving memory can help them overcome their problems in math. Math requires good long term memory and advance math requires good sequential memory (or the ability to remember steps or procedures and in the correct order). These skills can be developed using neuro-development.

Some children's math problems do not relate to memory problems but more to mental processing problems. Sometimes they think too slowly and get lost in their thoughts when it comes to math manipulation. Neuro-developmental exercises related to processing speed will help these children.

Some students find that they used to be great at math, but now are failing when they try to learn long division and algebra. Neuro-development can be helpful with these students as well.

Children who are mentally retarded or intellectually challenged will be able to learn math by neuro-developmental techniques. Individuals with brain damage and who have forgotten how to do math due to the injury, can relearn math though the use of neuro-developmental techniques.

This article will explain how to provide remediation so that participants will be able to learn math where math instruction and tutoring did not work. There are four types of problems learning math that will be covered in this article: mentally retarded or intellectually challenged children and individuals with brain injury, children with poor math fact abilities, children with the inability to learn math word problems, and finally participants who did well in math until they were learning long division and algebra.

There are some great professionally developed neuro-developmental interventions for math problems (e.g., Structure of Intellect (SOI), Audioblox, Rx Learning). SOI testing allows the participant to discover which neuro-developmental units are weak and which ones are strong. SOI has pen and pencil modules or exercises that allow students to overcome their weaknesses in neuro-development. This approach can be given to all individuals having problems learning math.

Intellectually Handicapped or Brain Injury that Effect Math Abilities.

The following is an account of a step by step procedure I would use to teach math to someone who was mentally retarded or someone who lost all abilities in math due to a brain injury (assuming that the person with brain injury had normal functioning in other areas related to learning). In children who are intellectually challenged, acquisition of academic skills usually has to take a linear pattern. Concept needs to be developed upon concept. This is usually accomplished at a much slower rate than other children. Patience is needed and it is helpful to remember that you are engaged in nuero-development instead of teaching.

In teaching you expect the student to learn it after one or two explanations. In neuro-development you repeatedly present the student with the stimuli until neuro-pathways are developed for that person to use that stimuli. Mothers do this automatically with their infants. They repeatedly say the word Mama until finally one day, the child answers back mama. The parent has been stimulating the growth of neuro-pathways so the child can say the word mama. It took much time and patience and repeated instruction. Similar techniques are used with mentally challenged participants.

With this said, Dr. Winger and others have demonstrated the ability to increase IQ by 24 points through neuro-development. A gain to that degree will help participants who are intellectually challenged get towards the normal range of intelligence. For example, consider an intellectually challenged individual with an IQ of 65. With a 24 point gain, it puts the child with an IQ of 89 (100 is average and 85 and above is considered within the average range). Children with an IQ of 89 can learn math from regular instruction. It is important to do exercises or activities that increase IQ with these children as well as teach math skills. These include but are not limited to balance exercises, processing speed exercises, attention exercises and memory exercises. These activities will be the activities that also increase IQ. Make these exercises fun and rewarding for children. As you see their intelligence grow, give yourself the credit. This is something that they will not get at most school. These efforts at home will enhance their ability to learn at school. Increasing IQ may also include vitamins and appropriate diet that has demonstrated an increase in IQ development.

A good place to start in developing math abilities is the concept of identifying objects and counting them. This is usually accomplished when a child discovers their fingers and a parent will count them up to the number 10. After fingers, other objects can be counted such as toes, coins, food, and so forth. Audioblox introduces counting of blocks. Food is a great way for children to learn math. Placing crackers or treats and counting them is a great way for children to learn about numbers. When a child wants more, the parent can ask: How many more crackers would you like? The parent can then count with the student the number of crackers desired.

A normal child of 5 years or older will learn concepts taught to them (that are age appropriate) with one or two times of instruction and several reviews. Intellectually challenged children will not. Normal children have the neuro-pathways already developed. Intellectually challenged children generally do not have the neuro pathways developed. Neuro development is the process of taking a simple term and working with the child on it daily and maybe in several ways until the child grasps the concept proving that a neuro pathway has been developed. Keep proceeding in this manner, having math concepts build upon themselves, in a sequential progression until the child is functioning at age level. This process could take years, but is well worth the effort. Any gain in math ability as with any gain in IQ will positively effect the student for the rest of their life. It is well worth the few minutes (20-30) a day to make this happen. If you are doing a specaial education home schooling program, then you can afford to spend more time on neuro-development, but math neuro-development should not be longer than 20 to 30 minutes at a day. You can also do math nuero development for 20 to 30 minutes twice daily (e.g., 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening). This should produce faster results. However, much more than this may be counterproductive.

An unscientific way to measure the gains by neuro-deelopment over regular special education is to know the participants abilities (or level of functioning), find a child or two of similar abilities and compare them over time. In a year, the child participating in neuro-developmental techniques should be significantly ahead of children given regular special education. Within two or three years, the results should be very dramatic. It is hoped by then, that the school will begin talking about taking the participant out of special educaiton and into regular education. If this happens, continue neuro-development until the participant is in every way within the normal range of intellectual functioning and at age level on all subject material. Some children will not be able to arrive at this point, but they can certainly get closer. Rember any advancement in math ability and IQ development will effect that child positively in a higher quality of life for their remaining years of life.

Manipulative are often used to learn math. A manipulative is something that the child can handle, manipulate and You can use coins, beads, blocks, buttons or just about anything as manipulative for children to learn math. Neuro-development is using them in a systematic and repetitive way until children grasp the concepts trying to be taught. The guiding principle in neuro-development is starting at a place in development where the child is "at" or an ability that the child can already do and then adding upon it step by step. For example, if a child can count her fingers on her own, then the next thing to introduce is counting food or another manipulative.

Manipulative are often used to learn math. A manipulative is something that the child can handle, touch and manipulate. A presentor can use coins, beads, blocks, buttons, food or just about anything as manipulative for children to learn math concepts. Neuro-development is using them in a systematic and repetitive way until children grasp the concepts trying to be taught. The guiding principle in neuro-development is starting at a place in development where the child is "at" or an ability that the child can already do and then adding upon it step by step. For example, if a child can count her fingers on her own, then the next step is counting food, blocks or another manipulative. The next step after that would be grouping the minipulatives.

This next step involves combining manipulatives into sets. For example when working with coins, the instructor can put pennies in sets of two penny groups and three penny groups. The presentor can have the student give to the presentor the two penny groups but leave the three penny groups. After the concepts of groupings has been accomplished, increase the size of the groups to higher numbers. Do this until the child can successfully tell the difference between a group of 21 pennies from a group of 9 pennies from a group of 4 pennies. This process will naturally lead to the introduction of concepts such as greater than, less than and equal to.

Next addition can be taught using your favorite manipulative and introducing standard math notation which is symbols. Some children will need to be taught the concept of symbols. Use symbols already familiar with the child (e.g., the golden arches of McDonald's, icons from the computer). Introduce the plus sign and the minus sign by demonstrating with the child's favorite manipulative. Remember in neuro-development, this may take a while. In regular learning with a child that has the ability to learn, this does not take much time at all. Introduce other symbols such as greater than, less than, and equal to. Apply these signs to the set work described above. You can make the symbols out of clay and then have the child place them appropriatedly between two sets or groups of manipulatives (e.g., put the > symbol between a pile of nine pennies and a pile of two pennies). Continue doing this until the particpant has mastered the symbol by being able to do it consistently and correctly over time. Remember that it is normal for he participant to be able to do it on some days and not on others. Continue the exposure or training until the child is consistent in getting the correct answer or response.

Math is more of a right brain activity, while reading is more of a left brain activity. Thus it is important to use manipulatives and think in terms of spatial relationships. A great manipulative for math that takes in these considerations are Cuisenaire rods. Cuisenaire Rods You can use these rods to teach addition, subtraction, multiplication and division as well fractions. They also help with spatial relationships.

The way to work with Cuisenaire Rods is to have the child play with them. Have them make designs and learn to build things with them. After the child is used to them, then use them to teach concepts of grouping, addition, subtraction, etc. There are many books teaching teachers and parents how to get the most of Cuisenaire Rods in teaching math. Super Source for Cuisenaire Rods, Grades K-2 by Cuisenaire Company of America, ISBN: 1574520032 and Idea Book for Cuisenaire Rods: Teacher's Resource Manual / Grades PreK-2 by Patricia S. Davidson, ISBN: 1569117489, are a couple of examples.

A developmental milestone in children learning math is the ability to count money. The hardest concept appears to be that a quarter is worth 25 pennies. After the child knows the value of a penny, nickel, dime, quarter, half a dollar and a dollar, the next step is for them to use their addition and subtraction skills to buy and sell and receive the correct change. Be patient and develop this skill until the child can do so accurately and consistently. Involve the child in making simple purchases at a convenience store.

For mentally retarded or intellectually challenged children, you can have a family store. Prices at first can be set very simple like 10 cents, 50 cents and a dollar. Parents can give children money to buy foods or treats and give correct change. Then the prices can change to make it a little harder. Do this until they are able to go to a store and purchase items on their own.

After children can count money, another developmental milestone is fractions. This can be taught with food as well. Everyone should be familiar with using pies to teach fractions. The same think could be done with sandwiches (e.g., 1/2 sandwich, 1/4 of a sandwich, etc). Incorporate fractions in your regular day to day living activities. Once the child understands the concept of fractions and can add sandwich parts or subtract sandwich parts, then do the same thing on paper. Instead of using sandwiches, use symbolic representations of numbers and math signs.

Another developmental milestone is the use of memory in the multiplication tables. Use the technique described in memory section to develop a knowledge of the multiplication tables.

As neuro-development has proceeded to this point, most children will be able to learn from regular math instruction. The only ones that will not will be those lacking in sequential memory. See the exercise on sequential memory for children having difficulty doing long division and/or algebra.

These are the steps to advance a child who is intellectually challenged or a person who has brain damage to learn math. Remember to include balance exercises, memory exercises and mental processing exercises that will raise overall IQ. Make sure that developmental vision problems are checked and if necessary remediated as well. The following sections will also be helpful to intellectually challenged individuals as well as participants who have suffered from brian injury that has effected their ability to do math.

Word Problems

There are some children who do well at math until they come to math word problems. These are usually children with marginal reading abilities. It is usually a comprehension problem. One component of comprehension is being able to understand terms such as on top of, underneath, on, beside. In a similar way, these children have a difficult time understanding words such as minus, take away, add, more, bought, gave back, etc. To remediate these problems, we suggest reviewing the section on reading and follow the guidelines for comprehension.

Another remedial exercise is to pick apart the word problem and have the student translate the words into symbolic form (numbers and +, or -, or =) as you do this, you will notice which concepts are the most difficult for the participant to grasp. You can use this concept several times a day in multiple ways until the child has grasped that concept. Don't be discouraged if the child is able to grasp the concept and use it one day and then forget it the next. This is part of neuro-development and just means that a couple more weeks of staying with that concept is necessary until the brain changes in structure so that it can grasp the concept. Doing balance work and rebound exercises will usually speed up this process. Neuro-development requires much persistence and much patience but participants generally see significant changes within 30 days. Once a child grasps permanently the concept, then similar concepts will be easier for the child to learn. Stay with one concept until mastered and then start on another concept. Do not do too many concepts at one time.

Poor Math Facts Ability

Usually a teacher will assess and inform a parent when a child has trouble with basic math facts. This is when a child has trouble with learning addition and subtraction or unable to remember the math tables. Some children can add and subtract but they take too long to do it so they perform poorly on timed math tests.

There are some things to check for before implementing the techniques described below. What should be ruled out are developmental vision problems, memory problems, anxiety, and processing speed. Developmental vision problems should be assessed and if there are problems they need to be addressed through developmental vision exercises. Many children take too much time copying from the board to their paper and can improve their speed through developmental vision exercises. This could be a contributing factor of the child's performance in math facts.

Some children get so anxious during timed tests that they freeze up and are unable to perform. These children should work with a therapist to learn relaxation skills and to learn cognitive techniques so they are aware of their own harmful thoughts that cause them to be anxious during tests. They should continue therapy until they can take a timed test without showing any signs of anxiety.

Processing speed is another issue that can interfere with performance on math facts. Please refer to the section on sensory intergration and processing speed and improve those skills and abilities.

The math facts exercise is a good remedial tool to speed up the acquisition of math facts. The procedure involves using a metronome to rehearse simple math facts. In addition it helps with processing speed. Also the memory exercise on the multiplication tables is a good method to help children remediate problems related to multiplication and division. Structure of Intellect (SOI), Audioblox, Rx Learning have additional neuro-developmental exercises to improve on math facts.

Children with the ability to learn math, but fail at long division and algebra.

It is sad to think that some states have laws that if a student cannot pass a State Algebra test then they cannot graduate from High School. Most adults do not even use algebra ever again in their lives accept to learn it again in college. To assess problems in algebra and long division, the assessment is really straight forward. The student was able to do math well but unable to do long division correctly on their own. They get started but become confused in all the different steps of long division. This sugggests that there may be a problem in sequential memory. It is usually sequential memory that prevents these students from graduating from High School.

For most of these students, the remediation exercise on sequential memory will give them the ability to learn long division and algebra. We suggest mastering sequential memory and then be tutored on algebra and long division.

While students are doing this, a good compensation technique is to keep a journal of the procedures of doing math problems. When the student is faced with a complex math problem, the student should be allowed the use of the journal to find a similar problem and follow the exact steps to solve the problem.

As with math word problem difficulty, before addressing sequential memory, rule out other possible causes. These include developmental vision problems, anxiety, memory and processing speed. It would be normal for students who performed well in math and now they are failing to be anxious. What needs to be ruled out is if that anxiety is to the point that it causes them to freeze up or does their apparent freezing up is largely due to them not knowing the next step in working out the problem. If it is anxiety causing them to freeze up, then they will need to master relaxation and learn cognitive skills so that they are aware of their thoughts about math and challenge their anxious thoughts. A mental health professional should be able to help students master these abilities.

When working with mentally retarded or intellectually challenged children and children who have always have had trouble with math, and are now ready to learn long division and algebra, make sure they have sequential memory abilities. If they proceeded this far in math, they theoretically should be able to continue once the have mastered sequential memory. Other remedial exercises from Structure of Intellect (SOI), Audioblox, Rx Learning may also be helpful.

In conclusion, learning math can be difficult for some boys and some girls. Learning math may be more than poor teaching. Computer math programs, the Internet and tutoring are good techniques to use when the child has been exposed to poor instruction. When children do not benefit from tutoring or more math instruction, then the use of neuro-development should be considered.

Being able to use math and count money can add significantly to a person's quality of life. Children who are intellectually challanged should use these principles until they have mastered division. They should then be taught how to use a calculator to do more advanced math. To have a high quality of life, it is not necessary to master long division or algebra. For those wanting to graduate from high school and go to college it is essential. Neuro-development can be used to help individuals accomplish their goals no matter how high or how low their goals are.

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