Re: Disability? Re: [xmca] Help in teaching and learning maths

From: Carol Macdonald <carolmacdon who-is-at>
Date: Tue Jun 10 2008 - 08:02:15 PDT

Hi Shirley
I agree about being careful about people getting labelled as having a maths
disability. My understanding of much of what presents as a problem as a
phobic reaction or a block. We can survive a really bitchy language and
literature teacher, but there are lots of children who struggle or fail to
thrive with bitchy impatient maths teachers (who are good at maths and
intolerant of a lack of understanding). There is much else in the culture
to keep language and literature development going.

But I would think from our perspective, we would have to regard maths as
being encoded in a different way, at least partially from a different
sociocultural history. The concept of number seems to be human-specific (I
don't mean visual estimation of small numbers). Then past a certain stage,
maths starts getting abstractions and syntactic embeddings that start to
look like the things that professional linguists love to use in analysing
language--and such linguists are very thin on the ground.

I had a student do an M Ed on anxiety in studying statistics using CHAT, but
that was nearly 20 years ago, and we didn't have the conceptual tools that
we have now. I do remember very clearly when we did a role play and I asked
her to tell me the reasons for what she was doing in the steps of a
maths/stats task, and she got so anxious about it, that we had to leave that
out of the research.

But why does failure in maths carry so much more of a negative weight than
say, an inability to draw realistically or abstractly, for that matter? It
must have something to do with the status of maths and its pervasive use in
high status occupations; but there must be something about the nature of
maths itself, and as third order symbol system.

What do you think?

PS To get back to the original practical question, I think maths performance
is best enhanced by a good maths teacher in a one to one situation, building
up self-*confidence* at the same time as *competence*. Machines and
textbooks aren't likely to hone in the the zpd in the same way.

2008/6/10 Shirley Franklin <>:

> Hi,
> We are touching on interesting ground here, if we describe a problem in
> getting maths as a disability.
> There is what I think is a very dodgy notion of discalculia, which implies
> there is something wrong with the brain.
> Problems with Maths I think can relate to a variety of factors. Thinking
> that you cant, and being around other maths-phobic people can promote maths
> phobia!
> Teaching out of the zone also promotes maths failure. But then establishing
> where the zpd is is what is important.
> Valerie Walkerdine wrote a lovely piece on how kids can get stuck in the
> metaphor that is used to teach Maths, rather than the metonym, the concept.
> For eg I always think of quarters (the metonym) as juicy pieces of chocolate
> cake (the ,metaphor). So learning how to teach Maths means being able to
> effectively use metaphors to teach the abstract metonym. (ref: Walkerdine,
> V. (1982):'From Context to Text: a psychosemiotic approach to
> abstractthought' in M. Beveridge, (ed.), Children Thinking Through
> Language. Arnold .)
> I think with Andy's niece she needs an I CAn approach ,as a starter! And
> fun stuff that shows how she uses Maths in her everyday life. Then showing
> how what she uses can be developed to become a bit more complex, and used in
> other contexts...
> So this is me thinking on the spur of the moment, cos I love teaching
> Maths. I think most kids here these days are not phobic, unless there is a
> language problem.
> Please do not medicalise or label having a difficulty with Maths! Analyse
> what the problem is and make Maths fun!
> Hope this is mildly helpful
> Shirley
> On 10 Jun 2008, at 14:16, Hallam,Teresa A wrote:
> Andy,
>> Here are a couple of general articles about math difficulties and
>> suggestions for remediation. There are a list of references at the end of
>> the second article. My daughter had similar problems at about that age and
>> struggled with it into adulthood. However, she now loves statistical
>> analysis with the help of computer software and is getting her PhD in
>> Political Science.
>> Teresa A. Hallam, PhD
>> University of Akron
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: [] On
>> Behalf Of Andy Blunden
>> Sent: Tuesday, June 10, 2008 4:51 AM
>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity; Peter Blunden
>> Subject: [xmca] Help in teaching and learning maths
>> I need help from some of you briliant educaitonalists out
>> there. This is help of a personal not a professional kind.
>> My brother, Peter, has a very bright 13 year old daughter,
>> Marissa, who wants a science career and is bright enough to
>> have gained entry to the elite public school in Sydney, but
>> she flunks maths. Like so many people I have known over the
>> years, she just doesn't get it. 99/100 for any other
>> subject, 40/100 for maths.
>> Peter will do anything to solve this problem. He is no fool,
>> but had architecture training and is a GIS systems person,
>> not a teacher. Just a father, not a teacher.
>> I promised that I would find him an article which a
>> non-academic could understand that would help him help
>> Marissa "get" maths. I would help, but I live 1000km away.
>> Does anyone have a URL for something he could read which
>> would help? Or any little tips?
>> with thanks
>> Andy
>> --
>> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> Andy Blunden <>+61 3 9380 9435
>> Skype andy.blunden
>> _______________________________________________
>> xmca mailing list
>><Schwab Learning Math disability
>> II.pdf><Schwab Learning Math
>> disability.pdf>_______________________________________________
>> xmca mailing list
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

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Received on Tue Jun 10 08:03 PDT 2008

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