What is educational therapy? Do we need it for students with dyscalculia?

Educational therapy is personalized help so students can reach their full potential.

While regular tutoring focuses on helping students with home work and review for tests and quizzes, educational therapy has a different and complimentary focus and works on development and long term retention of basic math skills and can be started when regular math tutoring is not effective or not effective enough. Educational therapy is for students who seem to know it one day and forget it the next.

Educational therapy combines general study techniques and organizational skills for learning with specific attention for a subject, while also addressing psychological aspects like self confidence and persistence.

After getting a good feel for a student’s skills in a specific subject, the educational therapist selects tools and techniques to address the issues that stand in the way of reaching the student’s full potential. These techniques are demonstrated and practiced during educational therapy sessions so that the student learns to apply them in school or when doing homework or studying independently. 

Educational therapy is never ‘one size fits all’, and always personalized. For some students the emphasis lies on study techniques in general, that may carry over and help the student to become successful in several subjects. For some students the emphasis is predominantly on an area of weakness or LD such as dyslexia or dyscalculia. Although there is some overlap and students may have characteristics of both LD’s, it is now a clear that these LD’s need there own approach. Intervention for Math Learning Disability (MLD) and dyscalculia asks for a very different way of teaching new concepts and how to apply them, to develop fluency and check for understanding than intervention for reading and they are usually provided by different specialists.

Ideally, educational therapy should be tailored to fit the educational needs of a student like a glove, making it easier to handle the educational ‘hot potato’


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 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

Multiplication foldable arrays to learn multiplication facts greater than five

The fold-able array below has 10 x 10 = 100 dots.  Each of the four colored parts is 5 x 5 =25.

The product of two numbers is shown as groups of 5 plus some extra.  Use the five times multiplication table and add the extra’s. It will help children when you fold the numbers that are not used to the back.

Example 1:

What is 6 x 8? It is 6 rows of 8. Fold back between the 8 and 9 column, so you only see rows of 8. Fold between the 6 and 7 row, so you only see 6 rows.

Count the total: 5 blue groups of five, 3 green groups of five, 1 purple group of five:

5 + 3 + 1 = 9 groups of five. Nine groups of five = 45. Now add the extra red dots: 45 + 3 = 48.

zeskeerachtSome children see immediately that the blue section is 25 + 3 green fives and one purple 5 = 45 and start to count the extra 3 red dots:

                    45 + 3 = 48.

Some children like to color in or connect the groups of five dots with a line to make it easier to count the groups of five.


Example 2:

What is 9 x 7? It is 9 rows of 7. Fold back between the 7 and 8 column, so you only see rows of 7. Fold between the 9 and 10 row, so you see 9 rows.

Count the total: 5 blue groups of five, 2 green groups of five, 4 purple groups of five

5 + 2 + 4 = 11 groups of five.negenkeerzeven

Eleven groups of five = 55.

Now add the extra red dots:

55 + 8 = 63.


Note: this method links multiplication to area and lays the foundation to later grasp the distributive property and FOIL method to multiply polynomials: (5+4)(5+2) = 25+10+20+8




Don’t pressure them for time

Don’t pressure them for time please, it is counter productive:

Pressuring for time sends the message that math is a race, instead of a thinking game.

Fear of running out of time limits higher order thinking and is associated with lower achievement.

No time. Hourglass sign icon. Sand timer symbol.