A parent’s perspective

This is an interview with Christian Voegeli, the CEO and Founder of Dybuster, who produced the software Calcularis, which is specially designed to help pupils who are struggling with maths difficulties.

The questions discussed:

  • Can you give us some background on why and how you decided to set up an app to help children with dyscalculia/ maths difficulties?
  • Can you provide us a brief overview of how the app works?
  • How does the app differ to other apps aimed at supporting children learn maths? 
  • We notice you don’t use standard visuals e.g. cuisenaire rods or conventional dice patterns why is that? Do you think it could be confusing?
  • Do you intend your app to be used alongside tuition or as a stand-alone programme?
  • What future developments do you have planned for the app?

Have you tried using Popits as a maths manipulative? 

Cat says, 
‘A few weeks ago one of my pupils showed me the ‘Popit’ she got for her birthday!  I was soon talking to her about the ways we could use it for maths! A little bit of investigation after her lesson and I found a 10×10 Popit! I had it in my hands before you could say ‘Popit’ and I’m super excited about using Popit’s in my maths lessons!
My first ideas for using Popits for maths are in the video below- I am sure you can think of many more!  I can’t wait to try them out! 
What a lot of multi-sensory fun we can have with these!’ 

Buy a 100 Popit here – 

https://amzn.to/2UToa5x

 

These videos are interviews with parents whose children have been diagnosed with Dyscalculia and/or maths difficulties:

 

What do you think is causing your children’s difficulties with maths?  

Jayne from Oxfordshire in UK.

Hania Felt

Hania says, 

‘I am the mother of four children with a background in primary school teaching and over 15 years of experience working as a dyslexia and dyscalculia specialist and SEN coordinator in an independent school in London. In this role, I worked on a one-to-one basis with children of all ages, abilities, and special educational needs, writing and implementing bespoke learning programmes with a strong emphasis on multisensory learning. I am now working as a dyscalculia tutor and am so excited to be a part of the Dyscalculia Network.

When I first started out as a primary school teacher in my early twenties, which seems so long ago especially as my eldest is now 18, I can honestly say that I did not really know very much about special educational needs and certainly not how to reach these children who struggled in subjects such as maths. I knew how to plan and deliver the curriculum, and to differentiate the work for children of different abilities, but I always felt there was something fundamental missing as no matter how hard I tried, some of my pupils just could not ‘get’ maths.

It was only when I attended a Dyscalculia training course in 2009 that I discovered a whole new way of teaching children who struggled in maths. This course was an eye opener for me. It was an intensive, hands on, practical course based on the work of Dorian Yeo and led by Jane Emerson and Ronit Bird. Here I learnt about the use of multisensory methods in teaching mathematics, with particular focus on the use of the Cuisenaire rods. This course has since formed the foundation of all my teaching, and I apply the methods and philosophy all these years on. As the course progressed, the penny dropped, much like it does when a child suddenly has that ‘aha’ moment. The missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle was not ‘what’ but ‘how’ to teach these children to meet their specific learning styles. Using concrete materials, such as the Cuisenaire rods, Diennes materials and dot patterns to teach concepts such as place value and the number bonds, enabled these pupils to suddenly begin to understand the meaning of number and to start their exciting journey in learning maths in a meaningful way that would stay with them.

I have since trained in the Unicorn Maths methodology and attended many courses led by Sarah Wedderburn. The core principle of teaching maths concepts through fun games in a structured, cumulative way is a method I retain in all my teaching. I have also been fortunate enough to attend training courses with the wonderful late Fil Came of Learning Works where I attended workshops led by dyscalculia specialists such as Judy Hornigold and Alison Shorrock. My passion in teaching children with maths learning difficulties has been inspired by every person I have met in this field, including those I have met through the Dyscalculia Network, as I love to keep learning myself.

I would like to share with you a very simple game which Ronit Bird developed called ‘Jump up and Down’. This game supports early work on place value and was an absolute favourite with one of my pupils called Rose. She would ask to play it at the beginning of every lesson and even when she had grasped the concept she would still ask to play it! It works best if pupils build the numbers out of base ten materials such as Dienes or Cuisenaire Rods, on place value mats. Pupils can record beneath the blocks or rods how many are in each section. This helps pupils build understanding about column value and the meaning of zero. They then have to add or subtract 10 or 20, depending on where they land on the game board. The aim is for the pupil to eventually be able to use their place value knowledge and add or subtract 10 without having to count ten separate steps forwards or backwards. It was a great moment for Rose when she realised how easy it was to add or subtract 10 to a number and we extended this work to jumping in multiples of ten and to adding and subtracting 1, 10, 100 and 1000 eventually to a four-digit number. If pupils have learnt the dot patterns, then they can also practise these when building the numbers on the mats.’

Download Ronit Bird’s game from her website here- 

http://www.ronitbird.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/gjumpupdown.pdf

Contact Hania here-  

haniabalbuza@hotmail.com

or on 

07824162810

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Amanda Davey

 

Amanda says, 

I’ve always known I wanted to be a teacher when I left school. Both my parents were in education in one way or another and I can’t remember a time when this wasn’t my goal.

I worked for 17 years as a class teacher in primary schools then moved into 1:1 learning support teaching when I qualified as a dyslexia specialist teacher assessor in 2012. Over time I realised how much more I preferred teaching maths. I loved the challenge of making maths fun and practical enough to break through the barriers of anxiety and show my pupils how to understand the concepts they’d always found so hard.

When I saw a talk by Judy Hornigold several years ago introducing dyscalculia I was fascinated. Immediately I realised that there were several children I’d taught over the years who must have been dyscalculic, but I hadn’t known how to support them. The more I found out about this learning disorder, the more passionate I became about helping those children that struggled so much to understand number.

I was lucky enough to be accepted onto the first dyscalculia teacher assessors courses run by Edge Hill University and graduated with distinction. I am now one of the first fully qualified specialists in the UK. Over the last two years I have been a 1:1 dyscalculia teacher in an amazing independent specialist school. But now I’m branching out on my own.

Remote teaching during the lockdown last year made me realise that I was still able to engage my pupils just as well over the internet and I spent hours making virtual manipulatives and finding games that we could play. Working from home was also great for me as I struggle with an anxiety disorder, so I am moving full time onto online dyscalculia tutoring. Over the summer I will also be setting myself up to be able to run virtual dyscalculia assessments, which are now accepted as an alternative to face-to-face assessments.

Working from home will also give me the time to provide online training for schools around dyscalculia. This is going to be a crucial part of my work as I am so passionate that every school should have some knowledge of dyscalculia. In research terms dyscalculia is around 30 years behind dyslexia, although the pace is picking up now. But it is still so little known about within the teaching profession and I am on a mission to change that school by school! I ran my very first webinar last week and will be presenting to a huge hub of schools in Hampshire and Surrey next week. So the ball has started rolling!

In the end, though, my driving force is a desire to help any student I can to start to understand this foreign number language. Because to a child with dyscalculia this journey is somewhat like being faced with information written in an unknown language. Imagine you were sat in front of numbers written in Japanese characters. It’s very hard to know where to start when you don’t even recognise any of the shapes. To a child with dyscalculia that’s what numbers look like and a word like five, spoken in this foreign language, means nothing. By doing lots of work developing my students’ number sense I can start to translate this language into something they can understand and work with. And nothing gives me greater joy!

You can get in touch with Amanda

info@amanda-davey-dyscalculia.co.uk

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