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(South Africa) Dyscalculia as prevalent as dyslexia; get support

July 18, 2023, Rising Sun Newspapers: Dyscalculia: Recognising and countering its impact on maths learning in SA

While it is not uncommon for South African school pupils to struggle with mathematics during their educational journeys, more awareness is needed about a learning disorder called dyscalculia, to ensure that pupils, who may be dyscalculic can access the help they need timeously and effectively, an education expert says.

Dyscalculia is a learning disorder that affects an individual’s ability to understand and manipulate numbers and mathematical concepts, in a way that is similar to how dyslexia impacts reading.

In South Africa, there is little awareness of dyscalculia as a condition and, consequently, there is a lack of diagnostic and remedial resources for people with dyscalculia to receive the support they require.

Dr Lindiwe Mokotjo, deputy dean: academic development support at IIE Rosebank College, a brand of the Independent Institute of Education, says pupils often find mathematics challenging primarily due to preconceived notions about the subject based on interactions throughout their educational journey from a young age….

Dr Mokotjo says there is ongoing research which delves deeper into dyscalculia globally, and to a limited extent, South Africa.

It is postulated that dyscalculia could be as prevalent as dyslexia (estimated at between five percent and 10 percent of the population) and that its impact is equally critical. Furthermore, there is a persistent global concern- and particularly so in South Africa- regarding the subpar performance of pupils in mathematics generally.

“There are several undeniable benefits in understanding numbers- benefits many take for granted. However, individuals with dyscalculia are excluded from such basic advantages. Consequently, it can be argued that dyscalculia extracts a financial cost from government and society, in addition to the personal cost for individuals,” she said….

The big question is: How can students living with dyscalculia be helped?

An option for support is to seek the assistance of a learning specialist or educational psychologist. These professionals can provide an assessment to determine the presence and extent of the individual’s Dyscalculia and recommend appropriate accommodations and interventions. Some universities and schools may also have learning support centres that offer assistance to pupils.

“In addition, there are various technological tools that can assist individuals with dyscalculia. For example, there are math apps and software programmes which can provide visual representations of mathematical concepts, as well as tools that can read math problems aloud to the user. There are also assistive technologies, such as calculators, abacuses as well as an active learning strategy as a teaching strategy that can assist with basic math understanding and calculations,” she said. …

“It is therefore essential that more research is undertaken to better understand the prevalence of dyscalculia in South Africa, and to develop effective strategies for identifying and supporting individuals with this condition,” she concluded.

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