Understanding Dyscalculia – Part 1

Despite the fact that Dyscalculia affects around 6% of the general population, many learners, tutors and educators are unfamiliar with the specifics. The next few blogs will cover some important aspects of dyscalculia, what is entails, the symptoms, the diagnosing of dyscalculia, various effects, and more. I hope you find this helpful!

What is Dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia is a learning disability that affects one’s ability to do mathematics and to grasp mathematical concepts. Learners with dyscalculia struggle to learn mathematics and to develop mathematical skills despite an adequate learning environment at home and at school. There are different severities of dyscalculia and learners will react or adapt to each differently. Some learners might work hard to memorise simple number facts. Other learners may know what to do but not understand the reason behind certain mathematical methods or steps. This is likely because learners with dyscalculia are not able to see the logic behind mathematics. Learners with less severe dyscalculia might understand the logic behind maths but are unsure how and when to apply their knowledge when solving mathematical problems.

Dyscalculia affects people throughout their lifespan. Children with dyscalculia tend to begin falling behind from as early as primary school. Oftentimes, learners may develop a strong dislike for mathematics as a result. Once learners reach secondary school, they usually struggle to pass maths and science subjects.

Warning Signs of Dyscalculia:

Dyscalculia comprises various types of mathematical difficulties. Your learner’s symptoms may not look exactly like those of another learner. Observing your learner and taking notes to share with teachers and doctors are good ways to find the most effective approaches and support for your learner. While the signs of dyscalculia look dissimilar at different ages, it does tend to become more apparent as kids get older but it can be detected as early as preschool. There is not sufficient research done on dyscalculia and so there is also no definitive list of symptoms and other than the obvious difficulty with mathematics, we know very little about what symptoms continue through to adolescence and adulthood. Because dyscalculia is best monitored and helped when spotted as early as possible, the following list has been comprised to help you identify any presently known symptoms:

Warning Signs in Preschool or Kindergarten

  • Has trouble learning to count, especially when it comes to assigning each object in a group a number
  • Has trouble recognizing number symbols, such as making the connection between “7” and the wordseven
  • Struggles to connect a number to a real-life situation, such as knowing that “3” can apply to any group that has three things in it; 3 cookies, 3 cars, 3 kids, etc.
  • Has trouble remembering numbers, skips numbers, or counts in the wrong order
  • Finds it hard to recognize patterns and to sort items by size, shape or colour
  • Avoids playing games that involve numbers, counting and other math concepts

Warning Signs in Grades 7 – 9:

  • Has trouble distinguishing numbers from symbols
  • Has trouble learning and remembering basic math facts, such as 2 + 4 = 6
  • Struggles to identify mathematical signs (+-) and use them correctly
  • May continue to use fingers to count instead of using more sophisticated strategies
  • Has trouble writing numerals clearly or putting them in the correct column
  • Has trouble coming up with a plan to solve a math problem
  • Struggles to understand words related to math, such asgreater than and less than
  • Has trouble telling left from his right, and even a poor sense of direction
  • Has difficulty remembering phone numbers and game scores
  • Avoids playing games that involve number strategies
  • Has trouble telling time 

Warning Signs in High School

  • Struggles to apply math concepts to everyday life, including monetary matters such as estimating the total cost, making exact change and figuring out a tip
  • Has trouble measuring things such as ingredients in a simple recipe
  • Struggles finding his or her way around and worries about getting lost
  • Has a hard time grasping information shown on graphs or charts
  • Has trouble finding and using different approaches to the same math problem
  • Learners may lack assurance in activities that entail estimating speed and distance, such as playing sports and learning to drive

 

The following are likely to be symptoms of dyscalculia:

  • Difficulty imagining a mental number line
  • Particular difficulty with subtraction
  • Difficulty using finger counting (slow, inaccurate, unable to immediately recognise finger configurations)
  • Difficulty decomposing numbers (e.g. recognizing that 10 is made up of 4 and 6)
  • Difficulty understanding place value
  • Trouble learning and understanding reasoning methods and multi-step calculation procedures
  • Anxiety about or a negative attitude towards maths (caused by the dyscalculia)

Now that you are aware of the many and varied symptoms of dyscalculia, it will be easy for you as a tutor to spot any correlations or learning disabilities should your learner ever have. If, during your tutoring sessions, you notice your learner experiencing difficulty, it is important that you keep a record and then speak to his or her parents about your concerns.

The next blog will briefly list how dyscalculia is diagnosed and discuss various other effects of dyscalculia. If you have any further information or experiences, please write in and let us fellow tutors know!

If you would like a tutor to assist your child or learner, contact BrightSparkz Tutors today!

Coping with and Helping Learners with ADHD

This blog recaps one of my previous about how to help learners with ADHD. This blog includes challenges posed for tutors and teachers who might have learners with ADHD as well as tips for tutors and learners who have ADHD.

ADHD can present the following challenges for tutors and teachers

  • Learners require more attention
  • Learners have trouble following instructions, especially when presented in a list
  • Learners often forget to write down homework assignments as well as completing given work
  • Learners may have trouble with operations that require ordered steps, such as long division
    or solving equations
  • Learners usually have problems with long-term projects where there is no direct supervision

ADHD can affect learners in the following ways:

  • Low grades
  • Teasing from peers
  • Low self-esteem.

So what can we do to help and aid these learners with their studies?

Patience, creativity and consistency are three of the most important aspects to take into consideration when tutoring or teaching learners with ADHD. As a tutor or teacher, our job is to evaluate each individual learner’s needs and strengths. We then need to develop our lessons and strategies in accordance with this.

Additionally, one of the most effective ways of helping learners with ADHD is maintaining a positive attitude. Make the learner your partner and say, “Let’s figure out ways together to help you get your work done.” Reassure the learner that you will be looking for good behaviour and quality work. When you see it, support it with prompt and sincere acclaim. Finally, look for ways to motivate a learner by offering rewards (such as a longer break or less homework).

Tips for the Learner:

  • Sit away from windows and doors so as to minimise distractions
  • Move while you work. Constantly moving can help you focus better on the task at hand
  • Concentrate on certain words! Studies show that repeating anchor words like “focus” can block distractions

Tips for the Tutor:

  • Give instructions one at a time and repeat whenever necessary
  • Signal the start of a lesson with a cue and in opening the lesson, tell the learner what he or she is going to learn and what your expectations are
  • Tell students exactly what materials they’ll need
  • Where possible, work on the most difficult material first. This can help to make the most of your session/lesson
  • Colour-code sections of material and make use of visuals!
  • Test the learner in the way he or she does best, such as orally or filling in blanks
  • Divide long-term projects into sections and assign a completion date/goal for each
  • Allow the learner to do as much work as possible on a computer
  • Make sure the learner has a system for writing down assignments and important dates and uses it!
  • Establish eye contact
  • Vary the pace and include different kinds of activities. Many students with ADD do well
    with competitive games or other activities that are rapid and intense
  • Allow for frequent (but short) breaks
  • Summarise the key points before finishing the lesson
  • Lastly, and most importantly – be patient and understanding

🙂

At BrightSparkz Tutors we provide excellent one-on-one tutoring for Maths, Science, English, Afrikaans and more… Get a tutor today!  Visit www.brightsparkz.co.za for more information.

What causes ADHD?

No one is sure what causes ADHD. There are many different theories but no one theory in particular has been proven yet. That said; many scientists believe that genes play a role. Results from copious studies suggest that the gene for ADHD runs in families. Because of this, researches are looking at many genes and gene factors that could cause ADHD.
Some learners with ADHD carry a specific version of a certain gene that has thinner brain tissue in the areas associated with attention. However, NIMH research indicated that the difference was not permanent and that as children with this gene grew up, the brain developed to a normal level of thickness. Their ADHD symptoms also improved. Research on this gene could help scientists to one day understand what ADHD is on a genetic level and thereby stop ADHD before is actually occurs.
In addition to genes, scientists are also researching an array of possible environmental factors that could cause ADHD. Some factors include, brain injuries, nutrition, and even one’s social environment.

Other possibilities include:

Environmental factors: Some studies suggest that certain environmental factors could add to the possibility of ADHD. For example, there seems to be a potential link between cigarette smoking and alcohol use during pregnancy that may increase the likelihood of children being born with ADHD. Other studies suggest that pre-schoolers who are exposed to high levels of lead might also have a higher risk of developing ADHD. Lead can sometimes be found in plumbing fixtures or some paints in older buildings.

Brain Injuries: Young children who have suffered from a brain injury have been known to exhibit behaviours similar to those of ADHD. However, it is important to note that this, like the above, is just one theory of many and only a small amount of ADHD learners have suffered from a brain injury.

Food additives: Recent British research shows a potential link between ingesting of certain food additives like artificial colours or preservatives, and an increase in activity. Research on the validity of this theory is under way.

Does Sugar Cause ADHD?

The idea that refined sugar causes ADHD or makes symptoms worse is popular, but more research discounts this theory than supports it. In one study, researchers gave learners food containing either sugar or a sugar substitute every other day. The learners who received sugar showed no different behaviour or learning capabilities than those who received the sugar substitute. In another study, learners who were considered sugar-sensitive by their mothers were given the sugar substitute aspartame, also known as Nutrasweet. Although all the learners got aspartame, half their mothers were told their children were given sugar, and the other half were told their learners were given aspartame. The mothers who thought their learner had received sugar considered them more hyperactive than other learners and were more critical of their behaviour, compared to mothers who thought their learners received aspartame.

Similar results show how easy it can be to misdiagnose or over-diagnose perceived “problems” of learner behaviour. We, as parents, tutors, and educators might forget what it was like to be young and no longer be familiar with as high levels of energy.
The possibility that learners are being misdiagnosed with ADHD will be discussed at a later stage. However, please note that many matters and theories related to ADHD are, just theories. There is still much research to be done.

Do you have any ADHD information, experiences or tutoring tips you would like to share with us? Feel free to leave a comment.
At BrightSparkz Tutors we provide excellent one-on-one tutoring for Maths, Science, English, Afrikaans and more… Get a tutor today! Visit www.brightsparkz.co.za for more information.

Understanding ADHD

What is ADHD?

ADHD is short for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. ADHD is one of the most prevalent learning disorders (or barriers to learning) amongst learners today. According to studies, about 5.3% of people worldwide are living with ADHD, of which almost three quarters are boys. The amount of learners with ADHD is increasing each year, making ADHD one of the most common barriers to learning. Because of the prevalence, it is important for educators, tutors, parents, and learners to be familiar with ADHD. The next few blogs will detail what ADHD actually is, the various symptoms, the different types of ADHD, tips for parents, tutors, and learners to deal with ADHD, and a discussion on whether doctors might be over diagnosing or misdiagnosing learners with ADHD.

 

What are the symptoms of ADHD?

Children mature at different rates and have different personalities, temperaments, and energy levels. Most children get distracted, act spontaneously, and struggle to concentrate at one point or another. Sometimes, these normal factors may be mistaken for ADHD. ADHD symptoms usually appear early in life, often between the ages of 3 and 6, and because symptoms vary from learner to learner, ADHD can be difficult to diagnose.

ADHD has many symptoms that each fall under specific types of ADHD. On a basic level, symptoms of ADHD commonly include a difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling certain behaviour, and hyperactivity or over-activity. The problem is that many behaviours associated with ADHD are common for young learners. Because of this, there is the question as to whether doctors, teachers, and parents might be misdiagnosing or over diagnosing the amount of learning who supposedly suffer from ADHD. As such, it is important to be able to distinguish between symptoms of ADHD and “symptoms” of normal learner behaviour.

A concise explanation of symptoms is as follows:

Learners who have symptoms of inattention may:

  • Be easily distracted, miss details, forget things, and frequently switch from one activity to another
  • Have difficulty focusing on one thing
  • Become bored with a task after only a few minutes, unless they are doing something enjoyable
  • Have difficulty focusing attention on organizing and completing a task or learning something new
  • Have trouble completing or turning in homework assignments, often losing things (e.g., pencils, toys, assignments) needed to complete tasks or activities
  • Not seem to listen when spoken to
  • Daydream, become easily confused, and move slowly
  • Have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others
  • Struggle to follow instructions.

Learners who have symptoms of hyperactivity may:

  • Fidget and squirm in their seats
  • Talk nonstop
  • Dash around, touching or playing with anything and everything in sight
  • Have trouble sitting still during dinner, school, and story time
  • Be constantly in motion
  • Have difficulty doing quiet tasks or activities.
  • Children who have symptoms of impulsivitymay:
  • Be very impatient
  • Blurt out inappropriate comments, show their emotions without restraint, and act without regard for consequences
  • Have difficulty waiting for things they want or waiting their turns in games
  • Often interrupt conversations or others’ activities.

 

Types of ADHD:

As mentioned above, there are certain symptoms that fall under the different types of ADHD. The types of ADHD are as follows:

Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive

Most symptoms (six or more) are in the hyperactivity-impulsivity categories.

Fewer than six symptoms of inattention are present, although inattention may still be present to some degree.

  • Predominantly inattentive

The majority of symptoms (six or more) are in the inattention category and fewer than six symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity are present, although hyperactivity-impulsivity may still be present to some degree.

Children with this subtype are less likely to act out or have difficulties getting along with other children. They may sit quietly, but they are not paying attention to what they are doing. Therefore, the child may be overlooked, and parents and teachers may not notice that he or she has ADHD.

  • Combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive

Six or more symptoms of inattention and six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity are present.

Most children have the combined type of ADHD.

 

ADHD Can Be Mistaken for Other Problems

Parents and teachers may fail to realise that learners with symptoms of inattention often suffer from ADHD because they are often quieter than fellow learners and are less likely to act out. Learners suffering from inattention may sit quietly as if they are working but are often not paying to attention to what they are doing or to what is happening around them. These learners may seem to get along better with their peers compared with those suffering from other subtypes of ADHD who tend to exhibit some social issues. It is important to note that children with the inattentive type of ADHD are not the only learners who have ADHD and may be missed. Many adults may mistake the hyperactive and more impulsive type of ADHD merely as emotional or disciplinary problems. Remember, young learners are typically more (hyper) active than their older peers. Parents and tutors need to pay attention to their young one’s behavioural patterns and should anything arise, know that there is always help.

 

Diagnosing ADHD:

There is no single test used to diagnose a learner with ADHD. Instead, a licensed health and/or child professional will acquire information about your learner and his or her behaviour and environment. While some paediatricians may diagnose a learner themselves, others might first refer the family to a mental health specialist who has sufficient experience with childhood mental disorders and learning barriers. The paediatrician or mental health specialist will first try to rule out other options for the symptoms. For example, certain situations, events, or health conditions may cause temporary behaviours in a child that seem like ADHD but that will pass.

The referring paediatrician and specialist will determine if a child:

  • Is experiencing undetected seizures that could be associated with other medical conditions
  • Has a middle ear infection that is causing hearing problems
  • Has any undetected hearing or vision problems
  • Has any medical problems that affect thinking and behaviour
  • Has any learning disabilities
  • Has anxiety or depression, or other psychiatric problems that might cause ADHD-like symptoms
  • Has been affected by a significant and sudden change, such as the death of a family member, a divorce, or parent’s job loss.

A specialist will also check school and medical records for clues, to see if the child’s home or school settings appear unusually taxing or unsettled, and acquire information from the learner’s parents and teachers.

The specialist will ask:

  • Are the behaviours extreme and long-term, and do they affect all aspects of the child’s life?
  • Do they happen more often in this child compared with the child’s peers?
  • Are the behaviours a continuous issue or a response to a passing situation?
  • Do the behaviours occur in several settings or only in one place, such as the playground, classroom, or home?

The specialist pays close attention to the learner’s behaviour at different times and during different situations. Some situations are highly structured while others have less structure. Certain situations would require the child to keep paying attention. Most children with ADHD are better able to control their behaviours in situations where they are getting individual attention and when they are free to focus on more enjoyable activities. These types of situations are less important in the assessment. A learner may also be monitored to see how he or she acts in social circumstances, and may be given tests of intellectual capability and academic accomplishment to see if he or she has a learning disability. Finally, if after gathering all this information the child meets the criteria for ADHD, he or she will be diagnosed with the disorder.

The following blogs will continue to focus on the different matters related to ADHD. I hope you found this helpful!

At BrightSparkz Tutors we provide excellent one-on-one tutoring for Maths, Science, English, Afrikaans and more… Get a tutor today! Visit www.brightsparkz.co.za for more information.

Does Self-Discipline Outdo IQ in Performance?

Valid IQ tests have been available since the early 1900s and a high IQ has always been considered to mean a higher academic performance. How then can we account for such stark variations among learners with the same IQ? The answer lies in laziness and a lack of motivation versus self-discipline and perseverance.

In a longitudinal study, by Duckworth and Seligman, of 140 eighth-grade students, self-discipline, measured by self-report, parent report, teacher report, and monetary choice questionnaires in the fall predicted final school results, school attendance, regular achievement-test scores, and selection into a competitive high school program the following spring. In duplication with 164 eighth graders; a behavioural delay-of-gratification task, a questionnaire on study habits, as well as a group-administered IQ test were added to the study. Self-discipline measured in the fall accounted for more than twice as much change as IQ in results, high-school selection, school presence, hours spent doing homework, hours spent watching television, and the time of day students began their homework. The effect of self-discipline on final grades held even when controlling for first-marking-period grades, achievement-test scores, and measured IQ. These findings suggest a major reason for students falling short of their intellectual potential: their failure to exercise self-discipline.

In the study, it was found that adolescents with a higher IQ outperformed their more impatient and volatile peers on every academic performance variable. Variables included report card results, standardized achievement test scores, admission into more competitive high schools, as well as attendance. Learners with a higher level of self-discipline also earned higher GPAs and achievement test scores. These learners had a better chance of attaining admission to tertiary education, were absent less from school, spent a greater deal of time on homework and less time watching television and instead started their homework earlier. Unlike IQ studies, research based on consistent self-discipline was able to predict gains in academic performance throughout the school year. Advocating for the validity of Duckworth’s and Seligman’s findings; a study by Wolfe and Johnson in 1995 found self-discipline to be the only one among 32 measured personality variables (such as self-esteem, extraversion, energy level, etc.) that was able to predict a learner’s college grade point average.

Sadly, many teachers and parents have witnessed first-hand how some learners have wasted their academic potential. Tutors and teachers will inevitably meet learners who have the intellectual potential to excel academically and yet do not because they refuse to put in the time and effort; they lack self-discipline. So what are some of the reasons for a lack in self-discipline? According to studies, one reason is the need for instant gratification. For example, Learner A has maintained consistently low or average academic results which are a direct result of his not studying enough or putting sufficient time into his work. Learner A then suddenly decides to study hard for an upcoming test but fails to see much improvement. Learner A then assumes studying does not help, failing to realise that good grades and a substantial improvement in academic results require time, determination and self-discipline. Such examples coincide with McClure, who in 1986 speculated that, “Our society’s emphasis on instant gratification may mean that young students are unable to delay gratification long enough to achieve academic competence”.

Good results are not always a quick fix. Sometimes, improvement takes time and extra work over a long-term period. Brightsparkz Tutors realise the importance of determination and self-discipline. Our tutors will help your learner to improve their academic performance on a long-term basis rather than short term. This is done by motivating learners to do their best and by making learning more enjoyable thereby encouraging self-discipline. Let us help your learner to achieve their best with our adept and knowledgeable tutors through motivation and learning that is both informative and fun!