Many children and adults struggle with math. Teaching multisensory math techniques as well as incorporating multisensory math activities into lesson plans is not only best practice for students with dyscalculia, but can be helpful for all learners.
I'm thrilled to welcome a guest blogger today who can explain what multisensory math is to you. Adrianne Meldrum will offer links and references to multisensory math curriculum for dyscalculia as well.
“Hands shoot up all around me, a forest of arms straining and connected to minds that understand, to minds that know. A slight twinge of shame flushes my cheeks. I feel anxious and exposed. This feeling has become as familiar as water. Every day the nervous flutter, the twinge inside, the blank, the sinking reminder that I don’t get it, that I don’t belong here, that I am alone.”
When I read this passage from My Thirteenth
Winter, a memoir of a student with a math learning disability, I wept for my
students. This is what they feel when they go to school. Many
of them with high IQs but are faced with the deep shame that they can’t do
math.
Math is a shameful topic for many. Just this week, I had a dear friend confide in me that she
can’t do basic math. She cried as she recounted how as an adult she still
uses her fingers to do basic counting. Her lip quivered as she talked
about how she calls her husband to help her figure out 20% off sales at the
store.
Like many of you, I am on a mission to bring an
end to students feeling this way. I’ve been witness to watching students
who think they “don’t belong here” rapidly become aware that in fact they DO
belong here and even find joy in doing it!
So how do we help our students purge the shame
they feel around math? We teach them using multisensory math!
(The following post contains affiliate links.)
(The following post contains affiliate links.)
What is Multisensory Math?
Multisensory math is using a structured approach
and rich in sensory experiences. We use touch, movement, and specific
language to help students become mathminded.
Did you know that 40% of students with dyslexia also demonstrate
difficulty with math? This percentage
also shows up in our student roster at Math for Middles.
I’ve been investing the last few years in
learning from my mentor, Marilyn Zecher. For much of her career, she’s
dedicated her life to teaching struggling students using the similar
multisensory techniques found in OG based reading but in a math setting.
Marilyn Zecher’s Multisensory Math approach uses
research based methods from What Works Clearinghouse, Dr. Joyce
Steeves (the OG Math Lesson Plan), NCTM, Achieve
the Core: Math Focus by Grade ,evidence from
neuroscience and her own observations on what truly works  focusing on the language
of math. How we talk about math matters tremendously!
For math instruction to be effective, it must
work through the CRA instructional sequence (method):. Concrete to Representational to
Abstract.
Dr. Joyce Steeves saw a great need to use a
similar format from OG reading with her math students. She developed a
lesson plan that allows us to teach explicitly, practice skills so they are not
lost, and introduce new concepts using CRA.
I wanted you to see what multisensory math looks
like with the CRA approach in action. Watch this short clip to see how I
teach place value to one of my students.
The footage you are seeing are actual lessons I’ve done in the past.
There are no views of the student visible or audio of the student
speaking to protect identity.
How OG Reading and Multisensory Math Lessons
Matchup
Emily did a great job summarizing the 5 basic
parts to an OG reading plan. I used her same
structure to show you how Dr. Joyce Steeves lesson plan also follows a similar
format. The lesson is all done in less than an hour. Each part of the lesson plan moves at a quick
pace which keeps the learner engaged and using that math knowledge they’ve
mastered and are still practicing.
OG Reading

OG Math (Dr.
Joyce Steeves)


Part 1

Drills, Review, & Explicit Instruction

Part 1

Warm Up, Practice Sheet

Part 2

(New Concept)
Reading Words & Sentences

Part 2

Counting, Board Work, Mental Arithmetic

Part 3

Writing

Part 3

Discussion/Vocabulary

Part 4

Text Reading

Part 4

New Concept

Part 5

Additional Activities

Part 5

Written Computation, Review

Math Concepts that Must Be Mastered
There are four conceptual horizons that Marilyn
Zecher believes are necessary for all students to be successful in math.
Conceptual Horizons: Fun note: Marilyn just presented on these ideas at IDA 2018
 catch the recordings here (it
will take a bit for them to get 2018 up)
1  Pattern Recognition and Subitizing
The ability to quickly identify a quantity is an
important concept and begins our math foundation. Patterns are the best
way to see quantity and understand the fiveness of 5. Counting objects by starting at one each time
is slow and creates an dependence that doesn’t serve our students. This
is one reason that I’m not a fan of using dot patterns on math numerals. Each time the student is forced to tap and
count the dots one by one!
Recognizing dice patterns help us to visually
see and know a quantity without having to count each dot. We also need to
know various number bonds. That we can
decompose 7 into 2 and 5 or 1 and 6.
2  Place Value
Our students need to understand the difference
between expanded and standard form.
Expanded Form (tells us what it’s made of)
139 = 100 + 30 + 9
Standard Form (tells us its name)
139
3  Distributive Property
The ability to act on larger quantities.
Consider 13 x 4. Students need to
understand that we can break apart (decompose) 13 into a 10 and 3. We can
act on those numbers and distribute (multiply) the 4 and add those quantities
together to create the product of 13 x 4.
4. What is ONE and all its many names
One concept that has unlocked fractions for my
students is grasping that one has many names. Essentially, any number
written over itself is equivalent to one.
Some teachers call it magic one, but I like to call it Copycat One. Most
kids know what it’s like to have a copycat friend or sibling.
These conceptual horizons open up the higher
levels of math. Without these skills, math will continue to be difficult.
How to Get Started with Multisensory Math
The easiest way to begin is to revisit how you
plan your lessons. It’s best to start with skills the student has
mastered for review and then introduce all new concepts using the CRA method.
The goal will always be to remove the need for manipulatives because they
do slow us down. We’re striving for
efficiency and fluency so that we can tackle bigger numbers!
Manipulatives do not need to be expensive!
Many of the items we use are available online in bulk, at the dollar
store, and in the craft section. Here are some of the items we use every
day:
 Craft sticks
 Beads and string
 Unifix cubes (great for elementary school)
 Unit cubes (great for middle school and up)
 Foam stickers
 Flat marbles
 Bean bags
 Dice/Dominoes (only up to six)
Lastly, I highly recommend you invest in
training to support your students! There are quite a few options, but
Marilyn has been such a great mentor to me. I highly recommend starting
by following her Facebook
page here.
Training:
References:
Dr. Joyce Steeves OG Math (Only available
through Nook)
Don’t let your own shame of math stop you from
learning! The best math teachers and tutors are often those who
struggled. These trainings will help you learn math how you best learn
and also unlock the hidden skills you didn’t know you had to support your struggling
math students.
PIN ME! 
Author Bio: Adrianne Meldrum is the owner of Math for Middles, an online multisensory math center.
She’s a certified teacher with over 15 years of experience tutoring middle and high school students in
math. She received training in Multisensory Math 1 & 2. Adrianne’s currently working on becoming
a certified trainer with Marilyn Zecher’s Multisensory Math Approach. Connect with her on IG or listen
to her podcast, On Middle Ground.
She’s a certified teacher with over 15 years of experience tutoring middle and high school students in
math. She received training in Multisensory Math 1 & 2. Adrianne’s currently working on becoming
a certified trainer with Marilyn Zecher’s Multisensory Math Approach. Connect with her on IG or listen
to her podcast, On Middle Ground.
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