Part 4: Math is More than just Numbers
Math is usually one of those subjects you absolutely love or totally despise. Although math was never one of my favorite subjects when I was a student, as a teacher I grew to appreciate the various processes, tools, songs and hands-on ways to make learning more fun. Visually it can be cumbersome to understand how mathematical concepts work and are related. This doesn’t even include the act of reading, interpreting, and correctly writing the problem to find a solution which is a more advanced skill. Since the basic levels of math require number recognition, some students who struggle with math have difficulties starting at this level. Perhaps their difficulties begin when they have to use spatial awareness to write the numbers down in a certain way, or draw a visual representation of the mathematical work they are doing so that it makes sense. Math is a subject where you need to master one skill before moving onto the next level. In third grade this was made obvious as we progressed from mastering multi digit addition and subtraction, to learning how to multiply, to introducing division.
Common Math Difficulties
- Writing numerical answers in the correct order/place value (ex. Understanding 123 is very different from 321)
- Recognizing patterns in numbers, counting
- Skip counting
- Lining up numbers correctly to solve problems
- Following the appropriate steps to solve a problem
- Clockwise/Counter clockwise
- Symmetry of geometric shapes (ex. Drawing the rest of the picture so the sides match)
- Memorizing math facts
- Being able to read a word problem, understand what it is saying, and find a way to solve
- Drawing a visual to solve a word problem
- Concepts of measurement such as weight/size/ distance/ length
Math and Vision Therapy
I have done several activities so far as a vision therapist that help promote visual awareness, memory, processing speed, seeing things from a different perspective, and patterns. Spatial awareness activities can include orientation, number order, and require a person to solve any problems that come up while working. One activity we use to promote visual logic is a version of tic-tac-toe where the patient cannot see the board and has to plan and visualize each move in their head, much like planning for how to solve a math problem. Working through these vision therapy exercises could promote mathematical growth as well as numerous other brain skills. While vision therapy doesn’t strive to teach math skills, it helps improve the child’s conceptual understanding of math through numerical literacy and visual thinking. It’s exciting to know so many areas of the brain can be enhanced at the same time.