*When talking about learning difficulties many people assume that we are referring to a reading difficulty. We often hear the saying, “A learning problem is a reading problem.” This, of course, is not true. Among students classified as learning disabled, arithmetic difficulties are as prevalent as reading problems. In the *Journal of Learning Disabilities*, McLeod and Crump state that about one-half of students with learning disabilities require supplemental work in mathematics.*

In today’s world, mathematical knowledge, reasoning, and skills are also no less important than the ability to read. Whether in science, business, or daily living, we cannot escape the use of numbers. Every job, from the rocket scientist to the sheep herder, requires the use of maths! No matter the country you live in, the language you speak, maths is an unavoidable and required knowledge.

So how do we help a child with maths learning difficulties? Since successful intervention is dependent on finding the cause or causes of a problem, finding the cause(s) is our starting point. We thus need to ask the question, *“What causes maths problems?”*

### Mathematics consists of three aspects

#### 1.) Foundational skills

Research has shown that focused, sustained and divided attention; visual perception; sequential and working memory; and logical thinking (which makes problem solving possible) are the most important foundational skills of maths.

Visual perception refers to the process of interpreting and organising visual information. Visual perceptual skill is often subdivided into areas such as visual discrimination and visual memory. Visual discrimination involves the ability to attend to and identify a figure’s distinguishing features and details, such as shape, orientation, colour and size. Visual memory refers to the ability to remember a visual image.

One hundred and seventy-one children with a mean age of 10.08 years participated in a study by Marjean Kulp et al. This study, conducted at the Ohio State University College of Optometry, was designed to determine whether or not performance on tests of visual perception could predict the children with poor current achievement in mathematics.

Controls for age and verbal cognitive ability were included in all regression analyses because the failure to control for verbal ability has been a criticism of some literature investigating the relation between visual and academic skills.

Kulp et al. concluded, “poor visual perceptual ability is significantly related to poor achievement in mathematics, even when controlling for verbal cognitive ability. Therefore, visual perceptual ability, and particularly visual memory, should be considered to be amongst the skills that are significantly related to mathematics achievement.”

#### 2.) Mathematical skills

There are many things in mathematics that the learner must learn *to do*, like, for example, the skills of counting, of adding and subtracting, of multiplication and division.

The first step is to make sure that a child can count fluently, forwards **as well as backwards**. Thereafter, skip counting should be introduced. Skip counting is important in the development of fluency in calculation, number sense and as the basis of multiplication and division. It is also important to help students move from calculating by counting by ones to using number facts. For example, instead of working out 12 + 4 by counting 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, students can immediately add 4, or possibly add 2 twice. This transition to using fluent number facts is a key to success throughout school.

#### 3.) Knowledge

There is much in maths that one simply has to know and therefore has to learn, for example many terms, definitions, symbols, theorems and axioms. These are all things that the learner must *know*, not things that he must know how to do.

A child, who does not know what a sphere is, will have to guess when confronted by twelve objects and the question, “Which of the above objects have the same shape as a sphere?”

### Learning is a step-by-step process

It should also be noted that learning is a step-by-step process. Certain skills have to be mastered *first*, *before* it becomes possible to master subsequent skills.

In order to be a rugby player, a person *first* has to master the foundational skills, e.g. passing, kicking and tackling. In the same way, in order to do maths, a child *first* has to learn the foundational skills of maths, like visual perception and logical thinking.

The second step would be to master mathematical skills, *which must be done in a sequential fashion*. One has to learn to count before it becomes possible to learn to add and subtract. Suppose one tried to teach a child, who had not yet learned to count, to add and subtract. This would be quite impossible and no amount of effort would ever succeed in teaching the child these skills. The child must learn to count first, before it becomes possible for him to learn to add and subtract.

The third step would be to ensure that the learner catches up in the knowledge aspect of maths.

Mathblox classes, offered at Edublox clinics, are aimed at Grade 2 to 7 learners and set the foundation for grasping mathematics. We achieve this by teaching your child:

* An in-depth understanding of the terminology used in maths.

* Foundational maths skills such as focused, sustained and divided attention; visual perception; sequential and working memory; and logical thinking (which makes problem solving possible).

* Application in the form of curriculum-based exercises — mental arithmetic, reading time, word sums, et cetera.

Classes are offered in English and Afrikaans.

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