Free webinar examines hands-on strategies to teach math to students with dyslexia
PC Reads will present Marilyn Zecher on May 12
Dyslexia is a learning disability that people usually connect with reading and writing, but it also can affect how a student understands math, says Marilyn Zecher.
Zecher, a nationally certified academic language therapist, will discuss how multisensory teaching, which utilizes visual, auditoriy and tactile methods, can level the playing field for students who are dyslexic in a webinar titled “Why Some Students Struggle in Math and What We Can Do About It” hosted by PC Reads on May 12.
Registration for the free event for teachers, parents and community members is open at parkcityreads.org/community-events.
“The last 25 years of my life has been spent on how to apply general multisensory strategies, but also those gleaned from literacy instruction that can be applied to math,” said Zecher, who has worked in the field of dyslexia since the mid-1970s, and specializes in application of multisensory strategies for teaching math, study skills, reading and language.
The multisensory approach is a unique way of thinking about teaching mathematics, and applies the Orton-Gillingham multisensory instructional strategies to mathematics, she said.
Samuel T. Orton, who is considered the father of studying dyslexia in his work, and his research assistant, Anna Gillingham, developed the Orton-Gillingham approach, a method that teaches reading through the connections between letters and sounds, according to Zecher.
“It’s mostly associated with reading, but many people don’t know they used multisensory to teach everything,” she said.
The method involves hands-on work with simple objects in three steps — concept, integration and memory — which is akin to the teaching methods developed by Italian physician Maria Montessori, according to Zecher.
“Montessori was an early pioneer in using multisensory strategies,” Zecher said. “She wasn’t the only one, but she had the style teaching that children followed what they were curious about. It was more exploratory. And my work has all been trying to encompass bringing the multisensory method into mathematics.”
Multisensory means using different learning pathways — visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile — within the brain, said Alane Gaspari, an intervention specialist at Parley’s Park Elementary School and PC Reads board member who has participated in one of Zecher’s many webinars.
This reinforces ideas through different modes that include seeing and touching, Gaspari said. “You start with something you can touch and move to a picture that represents that,” she said. “From there you move to abstractly being able to do this with paper, pencil and numbers in your head.”
Zecher’s method also focuses on the vocabulary of math, according to Gaspari.
“What does the word ‘difference’ mean or what does the word ‘product’ mean?” she said. “We forget when kids who are in elementary need to be explicitly taught what those words mean, and Marilyn takes those abstract words and brings them down to understandable words. I think she does a good job of giving the students these underline skills so they don’t get frustrated and develop a fear of math.”
Gaspari believes both teachers and parents will benefit from Zecher’s webinar.
“I know what Marilyn does is research based, and I think she does a great job of explaining not just the what, but the why behind (things),” Gaspari said. “Teachers need to know why it works and then they need to know exactly how to use it in order to help their students the best. And for parents it’s a little bit of the why, but it’s more about how this can help their students at home.”
Parents saw their roles in their children’s education expand after schools closed and children began learning from home due to coronavirus safety concerns, according to Gaspari.
Some found themselves struggling with helping their kids with homework, she said.
“Parents at home most likely do math the old-school way, the way they were taught,” Gaspari said. “That works for some students, but not if someone who has a math deficit. Math is very different now than how we were taught. It includes the language of math and how to build that knowledge into completing the tasks.”
PC Reads Executive Director Elissa Aten is thrilled to host Zecher’s webinar.
“I attended one of Marilyn’s presentations at a literacy conference years ago and it was eye-opening,” she said. “I’m very excited for others to hear her speak and believe that everyone who attends will take something away from her presentation and put it to immediate use. She is an expert in this field who is able to present information in an engaging manner.”
When: 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday. May 12.
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