Teaching Multiplication with Dyslexia

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Teaching Multiplication with Dyslexia

Dyslexia can be really cool, but when it comes to math…not so much. Multiplication, which requires memorization of many numbers in which order is important, is especially tricky.

My daughter Camille is dyslexic, and while she has learned to read quickly, multiplication has stumped her. She is nearly 11 and does 5th grade work. Because of her challenge with multiplication, she is behind where her clever mind would have otherwise brought her. Without multiplication, everything from division to fractions to geometry is impossible.

When I taught in a private school we used Saxon math. My kids had also used this in public school, so I continued with Saxon when we began homeschooling. However, after the first year together we found Saxon wasn’t the best fit for Camille. Multiplication was explained as rapid addition. While this is true, that doesn’t help with memorizing the facts. The curriculum moved rapidly from single to double digit multiplication, and she was left behind.

Through the past two years of working with her, we’ve found multiple products to help Camille learn multiplication facts. As a dyslexic, I wish these products had been around when I was in elementary school! I believe they can help any dyslexic child learn multiplication.

  • Times Tales: For many dyslexics, it is easier to remember a picture than numbers or letters. Times Tales is a set of silly scenarios that give the child a mental picture relating to the fact. For instance 6×4=24 is 6 year olds playing musical chairs for 24 hours. Camille and I used Times Tales 8 months ago and she can still recall each of the facts without fail.
  • CardDroid app: This is one of the best math apps I’ve found. You can set the operation(s), the number of questions, and the number range used (between 0 and 20). Unlike most apps, you can change the smallest number and the greatest number, so if you want to specify “multiplication and division with 6s,7s, and 8s” you can do that. There’s a cute selection of color schemes and sounds (including “castle” with harps and “electric guitar” with riffs) that keep the child motivated.
  • Tables: Repetition is key, and it is helpful for the dyslexic child to fill in multiplication tables. I use graph paper to create a table for Camille to fill in. When she does this, it helps her create a mental image of the table that she can recall to “see” the facts.
  • Math Mammoth: We’ve tried many math curricula, and I find Math Mammoth to be the best dyslexia. The material is presented clearly and in small steps. These small steps build up to more complex problems. Also, visual aids are used that my daughter finds more clear for her way of learning. For instance, multiplication problems are broken down into place value. 61 x 5 is shown as 60×5 + 1×5, which is less intimidating and easier to compute. Using this method, Camille can multiply three digit numbers in her head, where she couldn’t multiply simple facts before.
  • Estimating: Teaching your child to estimate the answer to a problem (mentally) before multiplying can help them recognize if they’ve made an error.
  • Multiplication Tricks: For some people (myself included), no amount of repetition will get the facts straight in my brain. I use tricks such as: 4s are double-doubles; 5s count by five; 6s are times 5 + (the number); 7s are double-double-doubles less (the number); 8s are double-double-doubles; 9s are (the number) x10 – (the number); 10s stick a zero on it’s rear! Whatever method your child uses, these tricks can help them compute the answer when they can’t recall the fact.

Dyslexia brings a lot of gifts but also brings challenges, particularly remembering numbers in order. (Phone numbers defy me!) Fitting the method to the child’s gifts and needs is the beauty of homeschool!


Kathy LaPan is a homeschooling mom of two in Northern NY. She has an MBA in finance and teaches through SchoolHouseTeachers.com. Check out her blog at Simply Homeschool Living.

Homeschooling Dyslexia

Homeschooling Dyslexia


Although dyslexia was discovered over 140 years ago, obtaining treatment in public schools can be difficult. For instance, the state of Tennessee refuses to recognize dyslexia’s existence. Dyslexia doesn’t care if Tennessee recognizes it or not,  it is going to continue bringing its unique mix of gifts and troubles to children.

I am dyslexic.

I didn’t find out until I was in my late 20s, in an MBA program. When I was diagnosed, I commented to my mother how odd it was that no one had seen it before. She told me they had tried to get me tested when I was a child, but my school had refused on the basis that the test was too expensive. This was in the 1980s in upstate New York. I was shocked that a school would do such a thing.

I almost didn’t graduate high school. By the time I reached eighth grade, I had given up. It seemed that no matter how hard I tried, I never got the grades that made my parents or teachers happy. Everyone told me I was smart, and told me I wasn’t living up to my potential. But I was working so hard. It seemed that either I was stupid, or just not capable of doing what everyone else could do. The diagnosis of dyslexia shed light on all of those struggles. How very unfair that the cost of the test prohibited me from achieving in school.

My Daughter Started Struggling in School

Not long after my diagnosis, my daughter started struggling in school. She’s very bright, outgoing, and imaginative. But, at the end of first grade, she was unable to write her own name. In second grade we insisted on her being tested for dyslexia. Her teacher said, “She’s not dyslexic, she’s just stubborn.” I agree she stubborn. So am I. But we knew something was wrong. And when the school decided to pass her from second to third grade without her being able to identify all of the letters of the alphabet, we knew public school was not for her.

We decided to homeschool. We worked on her strengths: music, math, science. I researched dyslexia training. Having been a math teacher, I knew that there were products out there for people with weaknesses in different areas. I found All About Learning. This program is based on the Orton-Gillingham method, which uses touch, sight, and hearing to teach each of the phonems of the English language.

Dyslexia represents in three different ways

Where a child without dyslexia picks up the variations of the English language by following text while listening to a reader, dyslexia prevents the child from making the connection between sight and sound. Dyslexia represents in three different ways: auditory processing, visual processing, and memory. Children can have weaknesses in any of these, or all of these areas. My daughter struggles with auditory and visual processing.

This means her brain does not connect what she sees with what she hears. All About Spelling, a product from All About Learning, exposes the child to the auditory and visual aspects of each sound in our language and reinforces them throughout the length of the program.

It is not possible for a school with hundreds of children to provide the individualized instruction required for every child. No one learns exactly the same way as everyone else. Even without learning disabilities like dyslexia, we are all individuals. Homeschooling provides a way for a child’s strengths and weaknesses to be addressed in a nurturing and supportive environment. Homeschooling has allowed my daughter to grow.

For Christmas, she received a series of books. Two years ago, this would’ve made her cry. This year, she ran to her diary and wrote excitedly about the books she had gotten. And that, my friends, made me cry!

The first sentence my daughter wrote independently.

The first sentence my daughter wrote independently.



Kathy LaPan is a homeschooling mom of two in Northern NY. She has an MBA in finance and teaches through SchoolHouseTeachers.com. Check out her blog at Simply Homeschool Living.