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My Favorite Apps for Dyscalculia

Tutoring children with Dyscalculia is most effective when done one on one. As it is valuable that the children continue to explore math between sessions, apps are a real good tool.

Apps come in all kind of forms and varieties. Many are free and some cost lots of money or give options to buy additional options from inside the app.

For an app to be effective for our purpose, I look for these things:

  • What does my student need to learn now?
  • Emphasize conceptual understanding
  • Balance entertainment and learning
  • How ‘busy’ is the screen?
  • How many adds?
  • How are mistakes handled? 
  • Reward for getting things right?
  • Do you see the results?

Below I show some of my favorite apps. I do not get paid to review these apps and I am also not involved in the development of these apps. Just a recommendation from my experience with these apps.

Math Concentration on the App Store on iTunes - Google Chrome 882015 25700 PM.bmp Math Concentration by NCTM, this is an electronic version of the classic Memory game, with multiple levels starting at matching dots with numerals to matching fractions and percent, for one or two players. KG – 5th grade.
Counting Beads Intro on the App Store on iTunes - Google Chrome 882015 24542 PM.bmp Counting Beads from Visual Math Learning has colored beads with numbers that stick to each other when combined in the right order. Kids have fun dragging the ever growing ‘train’ in wavy curves all over the screen. KG – 1st grade
 MathTappers Find Sums – a math game to help children learn basic facts for addition and subtraction on the App Store on iTunes - Google Chrome 882015 24344 PM.bmp Find Sums from MathTappers will teach kids the ‘missing number’ to make the selected target number (all numbers from 5 – 20 and 100), by showing green and red apples in a ten frame or as numbers in a part – whole frame. Self correcting: numbers don’t stick if you make a mistake. Grade 1 – 3
Make 10 Plus on the App Store on iTunes - Google Chrome 882015 23022 PM Make10Plus to learn the ’10 bonds’: similar to Find Sums, but with numbers instead of apples: all pairs that add up to ten by clicking on the other number that forms a pair with the presented number. Can be a bit fast in the beginning when child is starting to learn the ten bonds. Grade 1 – 2
 Number Rack, by The Math Learning Center on the App Store on iTunes - Google Chrome 882015 23743 PM.bmp Number Rack is the electronic version of the rekenrek (pronounced raikuhnreck), a manipulative from my native country the Netherlands. It has five red and five white beads, that slide on a metal bar in a very realistic fashion. You can add printed and written numbers to show the calculation; for larger numbers just add more bars. KG – Grade 2.
  Number Line from the Math Learning Center, shows the connection between the number and the place on the number line, the size of a number. It has multiple options such as changing the size of the number line, with and without numbers. Addition and subtraction are easy to visualize with forward and backward jumps, multiplication with multiple similar jumps and screen touch to combine multiple jumps. the How to has a clear explanation. App. is a generous donation from Dr David Moursund. Grade 1 – 5.
 Lobster Diver on the App Store on iTunes - Google Chrome 882015 25308 PM.bmp Lobster Diver from New Mexico State University Learning Games Lab asks you to use an underwater number line to retrieve your lobsters, you need to be quick and watch out for the electric eel! Apart from learning the number line it also develops planning. Grade 1 – 3
 Visual Multiplication Table on the App Store on iTunes - Google Chrome 882015 24741 PM.bmp Visual Multiplication from Visual Math Learning starts with ‘Adding Beads’ a grid to drag balls with a number to their place. Two additional games are Chamber Maze, where you drag a ball with a nifty system to show  the number along a maze that shows the multiplication as an area, and Pool Table, a game where you multiply the numbers on two balls to go in the hole with the number of their multiplication
 Sushi Monster on the App Store on iTunes - Google Chrome 882015 25140 PM.bmp Sushi Monster from Scholastic has addition and multiplication by placing two plates with food and a  number on a round table in reach of a ravenous monster, who asks for a specific number and quickly gobbles up the food when the math is right. Grade 2 – 4.
Motion Math Wings on the App Store on iTunes - Google Chrome 882015 25844 PM.bmp Wings from Motion Math uses tilting your iPad to direct a bird to the highest of two numbers in multiplication, shown by a grid or a number. While flying to distant islands, you collect colored feathers for your bird, an innovative and a fun way to learn the multiplication facts. Grades 2 – 5.
 Thinking Blocks Addition on the App Store on iTunes - Google Chrome 882015 25003 PM.bmp Thinking Blocks from Math Play Ground is based on the Singapore way to solve word problems with part-whole strip models, and is useful alongside any text book to practice word problems. There are four activities: Addition and Subtraction, Multiplication and Division, Fractions, and Ratio and Proportion. Grade 4 – 7.
 Door 24 - Math on the App Store on iTunes - Google Chrome 882015 25512 PM.bmp Door 24 – Math developed by Curriculum Associates is based on the classic 24 games and starts with a robot telling the story and has an electrical wire that needs connecting by zapping moving ‘nanospheres’ with the fitting number into the slots. Multiple levels. Grades  3 – 7

Always time for fun games

Have any dominoes lying around?

Apart from playing the traditional game, try this fun suggestion to start up a conversation about numbers. Our activity, in the link below, will interest your youngsters in the number system, and can also help some older kids linking various verbal expressions to visual numbers.

Doubles and one more Dominoes

Fraction notation activities and cards: 3 activities to illustrate fraction notation and concepts


Why are fractions difficult? 

There are several reasons fractions are extremely difficult for students with dyscalculia. Both the notation, using two numbers close to each other, and the different ways we show fractions can cause confusion.

  • When using the fraction notation, students need to work with two numbers at the same time and think of them in relation to each other. Not only is seeing the two numbers so close to each other confusing, the words used to ‘read out’ a fraction leave the impression it is ‘one entity’, ‘one number’ and does not bring in mind the ‘whole’ that is being divided.
  • Not only is a fraction is written with two numbers, the numerator and the denominator, those two numbers actually have an opposite working on the size of the fraction:           A larger numerator, the number written above the division line, makes the quantity of the fraction larger, which is in sync with children’s experience with positive numbers. In contrast to that, a larger denominator, the number written below the division line, makes the quantity of the fraction smaller. This is counter-intuitive to students who have learned that bigger numbers mean larger quantities! Students with dyscalculia usually do not understand and remember that these numbers have a totally different meaning depending on the place they are written.
  • Another reason students with dyscalculia often get confused with fractions is because they do not automatically see the similarity between different models (such as folded squares, fraction strips, fraction circles, or pizza pies) that are used to illustrate fractions in their textbook or are used in class presentations.
  • Last but not least, most students with dyscalculia are slower in copying from the board and prone to making reversals in the numbers as well as in the numerator and denominator of the fractions making for very confusing written notes.

The fraction notation cards and the symbol and number tiles in this activity are designed to show the different meanings of the top and bottom number, focusing on one number at a time, instead of both. The words numerator and denominator are unfamiliar vocabulary and do not add to understanding, so they are not used in this lesson, we call it top and bottom number. The top number shows how many equal parts you count. A larger top number makes the amount of the fraction larger. The bottom number shows what type of parts you count. A larger bottom number makes the amount of the fraction smaller.

Go to FREE ACTIVITIES AND DOWNLOADS to see the full activity.


Graph paper is beneficial for all math students!

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When you are shopping for school supplies, think about an extra journal or package of three ring binder paper: quad lined paper is the first and most economical help for your struggling Math student. A small minority of students gets visually confused by the squares on the page. So it is always best to search for paper that is very lightly printed with ‘unobtrusive’ squares: the emphasis should be on what your student is writing and drawing not on the grid. 

Neatly lining up calculations prevents errors. Quad paper can also help illustrate many concepts that are more complicated to explain in words but are easily seen on paper, such as area and perimeter, for making graphs, and drawing congruent shapes, showing transformations in size, slides, flips, and and many more. 

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