Note, I have changed the "subject" of this topic from "Can everyone understand math?" to "Is dyscalculia just as real as dyslexia?" I am hoping to get an idea of what to do with a student that just doesn't seem to be able to remember how to do simple arithmetic problems (such as convert fractions to decimals) after several varieties of teaching techniques over the course of 4 years. This student is in the 10th grade 'probably' (dare I say definitely) will not pass the EXIT level test in math that is needed to graduate. I hate to "label" this student with any disability but it seems that dyslexia has become known as a real disorder in the educational arena (subject of reading) and it gives those students certain breaks when it comes to the state standardized test (special versions of the reading test, etc...). I am just wondering if anyone knows of anyone that has been diagnosed with dyscalculia and where a test to determine dyscalculia can be found. I saw on the Internet there is a book that can be purchased but I wondered if there is anything online. It seems that people with knowledge of a test for dyscalculia just want to profit from it and not do any free online type of test... Just for history sake, I have kept the previous topic replies to "Can everyone understand math?" below. If anyone has anything new to add to this topic (now that I have changed the title), please reply. Here is the original topic that I created: What percentage of humans are born without the capability of understanding Algebra? Is it the same percentage as those not capable of understanding arithmetic? I wonder this because it seems that all H.S. students that are not labeled to have a disability (in math), are required to understand Algebra. If a child gets through Jr. High math, it is assumed they will understand algebra. If a student fails at Algebra, it is said to be the teacher's fault since the student has passed math in the earlier grades and therefore has the capability of understanding Algebra.

Thank you for the reply Barbjudy. Note (03/05/08) that Barbjudy's reply has been deleted. I also note that there is no such ID as Barbjudy anymore. Therefore, the context of what this post is replying to is forever gone. However, I have kept my original reply here: I purposely "did not go far enough". I did not want to get any negative responses from the forum as has happened before. I tried to keep it fact based. I agree with all that you stated. You do seem understand what I am trying to point out. What state are you in? You mentioned that your state requires Algebra 1 to graduate. Try requiring through Algebra 2. This is what Texas has put into place as of at least 8 years ago. The result? Watered down Algebra 2 (however, from what I can detect on this forum, 'officially' no teachers ever water down their classes). We have a twist on grade promotion. Texas is experimenting with holding back a student if they don't pass the 5th grade state assessment exam (they have three tries---once in April, once in May and once in July). They repeat 5th grade if they don't pass the math section. This is year #2 of that rule. Next year they are adding 8th grade math to the list. HOORAY! I know what you mean about it being hard to LD a student. I have a student that works at 6th grade level in my 8th grade class. The student did not qualify for LD because of only being 2 grade levels behind! I suppose I will be the one to blame if the student is not at the 7th grade level at the start of next year. At least the student would qualify for LD. I am just wondering how it would work next year. Would I be blamed for not getting the student up to grade level and causing the student to be held back?

The difficulty, in my view, is holding back or advancing based on only one criterion. If the student is proficient in every subject except mathematics, should the student stay back? If we wait for each student to become "Proficient", how many more will we lose that could have succeeded at the next level. Will "Mastery" be perceived as over-achievement?

As long as exams fail to observe that people are different, it will continue to be a very difficult task to make sense of it. It seems to me that the professional judgment of educators, administrators, and counselors, in conversation with caring parents, should weigh far more heavily than standardized examinations.

We do need to identify students who should and who should not go on. At the same time, if we fail to advance even a single student who can and will succeed, in spite of any perceivable performance or predicted expectation, we may have made a mistake. Again, I'm leaning very strongly toward individual consideration. State exams simply can't do that.

I have a friend that lives in Oregon so I just got curious to see how that state does it. I think they have a good system. There is a whole battery of requirements to get an "CIM" stamp on their diploma. If they don't pass the state tests and/or get all the requirements for it completed, then they get a regular diploma based on completing all required classes for credit. http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/results/?id=25 So, it appears that the state tests are "optional" for those that wish to attain that status.

I read quite a bit of that material. Thanks for pointing it out.

My only real concerns are...

I'll call the first one "bragging rights". How careful are administrators to avoid a claim that a higher percentage of students at their school achieve the designation?

The second would be "misdirection". Will the state use the percentage achieving the designation for school assessment?

I read quite a bit of that material. Thanks for pointing it out.

In other words, is it really optional?

I would say it is as much optional as, doing a so-so/good/excellent job (and being graded - accountable - for it) and getting a pay-raise in private sector.

When I graduated from highschool in 1965 - I barely touched calculus. And I was in Advanced Math.

Now my son graduted from highschool - with a course in multi-variable calculus.

But this is inevitable. Somewhere I read that our sphere of knowledge doubles in volume every 10 years. That means the radius grows by 2 - 1 = 26%. Thus, even with a very specialized view we need to comprehend 26% more every 10 years at the same age.

Or we need to be satisfied with less complete view of the subject. Come to think about it ...Einstien did not know tensor analysis and Heisenberg did not know matrix analysis. And these were theoretical Physicist who were supposed to be - and were - at the cutting edge of applied mathematics.

Excellent reasoning. I have thought about an analogy. Driving a car... How many people that drive a car know HOW it works? Probably most people knew how a carraige (from the horse and buggy days) worked. Well, I guess that children back then didn't really have a detailed study of wheel and axle so maybe not... We are asking children to understand more about the world and things faster than many can learn them. If you believe in "evolution", sure humans have evolved (and I suppose still are evolving) but when a child is born, how much of this "knowledge" has been built in due to the evolutionary process. I am not a biologist but I would think ZERO.

quote:Originally posted by Subhotosh Khan

I agree with Hill.

When I graduated from highschool in 1965 - I barely touched calculus. And I was in Advanced Math.

Now my son graduted from highschool - with a course in multi-variable calculus.

But this is inevitable. Somewhere I read that our sphere of knowledge doubles in volume every 10 years. That means the radius grows by 2 - 1 = 26%. Thus, even with a very specialized view we need to comprehend 26% more every 10 years at the same age.

Or we need to be satisfied with less complete view of the subject. Come to think about it ...Einstien did not know tensor analysis and Heisenberg did not know matrix analysis. And these were theoretical Physicist who were supposed to be - and were - at the cutting edge of applied mathematics.

I agree that we are "doing too much too fast". It is not only because of barging "...ahead so that daddy can boast about the course title", it is also what the academic types sitting in their ivory towers are requiring. The people that are in charge of setting the standards of education are requiring that ALL students pass an Algebra2 class to graduate high school. Just 50 years ago, I don't believe even Algebra1 was required. So, has the human brain evolved enough to understand advanced material such as "Advanced Algebra"? Sure, teaching techniques have improved (But then, really, is playing with squares called algebra tiles an improvement to teaching algebra? Many of those sitting in their ivory tower think so. *I don't*). Evolution works over periods of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands of years, not just 50 years. Still, the amount of knowledge that a human is born with is ZERO. Ahhh, maybe this is the answer to education, pipe information to the baby while it is still in the womb... Maybe we can find a way so that all children will be born with the inate ability to master "Advanced Algebra" by the age of 16. A note about my belief that algebra tiles are not an improvement to teaching algebra------They are "fun" to work with IF you understand the advanced concepts behind them but they DON'T help in understanding the concept. If someone NEEDS the help of the tile manipulative, then that seems to me that they do not have the 'inate ability' to work with symbols abstractly. Isn't that what algebra is all about? Even if I am wrong with this line of thinking------It takes so much time to use all the multitudes of techniques called "hands on learning", that the amount of material covered and/or the amount of practice for all the different topics must be reduced.

Is there anyone else that agrees? Gee, I feel a bunch of negative vibes coming on. I probably shouldn't have started this topic. Mrspi---are you following this thread? It seems that I read a post that you made where you mentioned something along the lines of this "ivory tower" concept. I believe that you called it a "glass house" or something...? If you arefollowing this thread, I also have a question for you (not related to this thread). Is the PATHway site down? I get disconnected as soon as I enter the "live help".

Is there anyone else that agrees? Gee, I feel a bunch of negative vibes coming on. I probably shouldn't have started this topic. Mrspi---are you following this thread? It seems that I read a post that you made where you mentioned something along the lines of this "ivory tower" concept. I believe that you called it a "glass house" or something...? If you arefollowing this thread, I also have a question for you (not related to this thread). Is the PATHway site down? I get disconnected as soon as I enter the "live help".

Yep...I've been following this thread with interest. Imagine if all high school students were required to complete Advanced Art or 3rd year Spanish for graduation.....not everyone has the same interest or talents, obviously. And not all students can be (or are interested in being) successful in advanced algebra.

PATH is not experiencing any difficulties at present...I can't understand why you're getting disconnected, and I'm sorry to hear that you are. We could sure use your help!

It is sad, and the trend seems to carry through at the other "math help" sites I frequent. I sure don't what is going on...I know that it is summer, but previous summers have not been this quiet.

Here's hoping that activity will pick up when school starts soon.

For whatever reason, I am not seeing the most recent post of yesterday. I will chime in anyway.

For sure, each person has different strengths. And we all can hopefully agree that students need to master basic arithmetic skills like adding two simple fractions (without a calculator if need be), interpreting decimals correctly, working with percents, etc. These are life skills.

But how much algebra should be required by all students? Those that have read my previous posts know that I believe that Algebra has benefits that extend beyond the subject of mathematics. If you have not read my posts, go to http://www.mathmotivation.com to see what I have been working on as part of my sabbatical project. That said, I don't know if it is a wise idea to force all students to take more than an elementary algebra course. If you force all into advanced algebra, then ultimately you may see the advanced algebra course being watered down to accommodate all students of all abilities and interest levels.

My approach is to work on motivating students to want to take as much math as possible. Students will perform if they are motivated.

Take my 14-yr old son for example: If he is given a new topic in math, he gets "stuck" as he tells me. He doesn't bother to read the book or use any other of the many supplemental materials available. Yet he is bright and with a few minutes of individual instruction, he easily masters the topic. Give this same 14-yr old a convoluted piece of software for designing his own computer games, and he digs into all the tutorials and quickly masters all instructions. It's all about motivation. Recently, I showed him my research on the math needed in order to become a professional game designer (see http://www.mathmotivation.com/science/computergames.html) and he seems to have a better attitude toward learning math, although in his opinion math still pales in comparison to his computer game software.

That is a good website, msakowski. Thanks for sharing. Hopefully it will help a particular student that I have. I don't know what else to do. I am thinking she may have a true case of "dyscalculia" but since I can't seem to find any tests for dyscalculia, it is only speculation. We have tests for dyslexia but not dyscalculia. Does anyone know where a test can be found for dyscalculia? This topic has gone to more than one page. For those of you not familiar with this forum, you must click on the page link below to get to the next pages.

These days, A.D.D and bipolar seem to be the catchall for most learning disabilities or 'excuse conditions'. At a community college, where I teach and tutor, I have been trying and trying to get some students through math 83 and beginning algebra. Math 83 is pre-algebra; It's as low as it goes. These students do not have the mental capacity to understand basic arithmetic, let alone go onto college algebra. They can not understand nor retain anything. It's sad to see someone flunk out of college because it just isn't there, no matter how much they try and get tutored. I asked a student, "what is 9 times 2"?. They said, "5....uh....I don't know". I have them counting their fingers when asked, "what is 6 minus 5"?. Come on. What are these people going to do even if they manage to get through college?. I know it isn't politically correct to say, but some just aren't able to comprehend because their IQ's run around 60-70. No matter how much government money is squandered, short of a brain transplant, what can be done?.

There's also the problem of students failing to learn (memorize....but I know that's a BAD term) basic arithmetic facts.

I tutored a very bright student....who didn't know basic multiplication facts when I started with her in 8th grade, and STILL didn't when she graduated from high school last year. I made all kinds of suggestions about how she might learn these facts (flash cards, etc) and also had a serious talk with her mother, very early on. Both the student and her Mom said basically "she doesn't learn that way."

Well, I took their money for tutoring....I "ragged" on the girl at every opportunity, saying that I was SURE that if learning multiplication facts was important to her, she'd do it (and I'm POSITIVE that was the case). When she graduated from high school and gained a scholarship admission to Cornell, she still could not tell you the greatest common factor of 36 and 40....

Not one of my proudest moments, to be sure. When the student and the parent do not see the importance of basic skills, there's not much we can do. This was NOT a learning disability. This was a flat-out refusal to do what was necessary to learn some very basic stuff.

That is a good website, msakowski. Thanks for sharing. Hopefully it will help a particular student that I have. I don't know what else to do. I am thinking she may have a true case of "dyscalculia" but since I can't seem to find any tests for dyscalculia, it is only speculation. We have tests for dyslexia but not dyscalculia. Does anyone know where a test can be found for dyscalculia?

Thanks for the compliment. It really helps to keep me going!

Hopefully, a lot of folks will make use of at least some of the things from the project I am working on. The videos should be helpful to most any instructor of high school algebra. And all materials are free for any instructor to use online or download and use off line.

With regard to dyscalculia, go to http://www.dyscalculia.org/calc.html to read a bit more. I was once a tutor to LD students and a few were diagnosed with this. Unlike dyslexia, which clearly shows as a discrepency between ability and results due to a scrambling of letters, dyscalculia seemed harder to recognize using the ability vs. results definition. It almost seemed to be more just an extreme difficulty with the area of math, just like some (like myself) are not as good at memory-intensive subjects like history facts. Or some have natural ability in art or music where as others don't. That does not mean the student can not succeed, it just means that they will have to work a bit harder and use a variety of strategies. So maybe the videos (see http://www.mathmotivation.com/all-applications.html ) on my site can help your student since they could possibly help your student visualize math better and cut through the abstraction. Or at the least, give meaning to the abstraction.

The three main issues mentioned in the replies for this topic deal with "IQ", "interest level" and "talent". Are there any relationships between these three things? For example, if a person has a talent for math, does he/she necessarily have a higher IQ than 'low' or is necessarily interested in math? I don't know how true the plot in the "Rain Man" movie is (or if it is pure fiction) but it comes to mind here. OR, if a person has a high IQ and a high interest level in math, can he/she obtain a great talent in it? The great mathematicians have but CAN everyone with high IQ and high interest level obtain a great talent in it? How about if a person has a below average IQ and is interested in math, does that necessarily mean that person CAN develop a talent in it? How about if a person has an average IQ and is interested in math, does that necessarily mean that person WILL get passing scores on standardized H.S. math exams? OF course the question of quality of this persons teachers might come into play. I think this may be where dyscalculia could be involved. How about just considering "interest" and "ability/talent"? How much relationship between the two is there? msakowski, thanks for the link http://www.dyscalculia.org/calc.html I had been on the main page and looked at some of the associated pages but I didn't see the /calc.html one. A student that I have does exhibit many of the indicators. I think that most people exhibit at least a couple of the indicators. I am going to show the list to the principal at my school and see what might develop.

If we agree that mathematics is just a form of language - then I do not see any reason for people to say "I can learn english - with or without dyslexia" - but ""I cannot learn mathematics - because I have dyscalculia".

After all why do we want people to go through school?

They need a piece of paper that says that they have achieved some level of proficiency in "something". That statement - they have achieved some level of proficiency in "something" - will "certify" that they are fit to do certain job - or go to the next level of education such that more options will be open for them.

Thus we need to "test" and "measure" - and declare that somebody is "excellent" or "proficient" or "adequate" or "inadequate" in a chosen subject. If it is decided that there is no need for some "track" to have algebra - we can remove that requirement - but we have locked the student in that track. That was exactly what the Russians did - those students were "tracked" since elementary school. Do we want to risk that?

I suppose not. And thus we require at least "adequate" level of knowledege in large number of subjects - such that when that magical day of being adult comes (day afte the 18 th birthday)- we can "choose" to be anything. So we want at least adequate knowledge in literature, history, mathematics, science and politics - such that we can make choices in life.

Subhotosh, thank you for the reply. You always seem to take the stance that everyone can learn math. I don't think it was you that stated Algebra2 is not really an "advanced math course" but it was mentioned by someone somewhere in this forum. So, maybe I am way off base here. However, galactus does seem to agree with me that not everyone can learn math (and galactus is talking about BEGINNING algebra and whatever math 83 is). msakowski seems to think it is a matter of motivation. Do you agree with msakowski? Do you think that everyone can learn math? Do you think there is no such thing as dyscalculia? The phrase that a person "can do anything once they set their mind to it" comes to mind here. I think that is a problem. I don't think everyone can do anything. Gee, I should go back to school and go for a phD.

quote:Originally posted by galactus

These days, A.D.D and bipolar seem to be the catchall for most learning disabilities or 'excuse conditions'. At a community college, where I teach and tutor, I have been trying and trying to get some students through math 83 and beginning algebra. Math 83 is pre-algebra; It's as low as it goes. These students do not have the mental capacity to understand basic arithmetic, let alone go onto college algebra. They can not understand nor retain anything. It's sad to see someone flunk out of college because it just isn't there, no matter how much they try and get tutored. I asked a student, "what is 9 times 2"?. They said, "5....uh....I don't know". I have them counting their fingers when asked, "what is 6 minus 5"?. Come on. What are these people going to do even if they manage to get through college?. I know it isn't politically correct to say, but some just aren't able to comprehend because their IQ's run around 60-70. No matter how much government money is squandered, short of a brain transplant, what can be done?.