‘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-
Contact Hania here-