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.