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My dyscalculia teacher’s journey

by | Uncategorized

My dyscalculia teacher’s journey

After university I trained and taught as a mainstream primary teacher but once I had my own family I needed more flexibility in my life and so I retrained as a specialist teacher at the Hornsby International Dyslexia Centre.  Having gained my SpLD Diploma, they asked me to return as a tutor and lecturer and I became in charge of maths and dyslexia – as it was then called over twenty-five years ago – and I have never looked back!

Dyscalculia is the most exciting area as it is currently the subject of so much research. From Governments down, there is pressure to ensure that all students are numerate so they can fully participate in society, and for economies to prosper. This is because when we are teaching maths we are teaching much more than just numbers, we are helping our students to develop accurate, multi-staged, reasoned thinking.

I founded Unicornmaths twenty years ago and have worked with the most inspiring and fun colleagues.  We have developed activities, games, foundation stones and revisiting activities that mean our students gain confidence and begin to succeed.  So, even though the experts are still unsure of the causes of dyscalculia, we are sure how to help our students.

All SEN teachers have their own resources which they use to determine where to begin remediation with a new student but, working in a team, we needed a more coordinated approach. Hence I developed the DANS (Diagnostic Assessment of Numeracy Skills). This is a structured set of activities and tests that allow us to map our students’ mathematical profiles so we can write their Individual Maths Development Plans (maths IEPs).  This has since been followed by DANS Solutions One and Two – toolkits for teachers that include ideas, games and activities to help their students develop a real understanding of key maths concepts.

I run dyscalculia courses for teachers, many of whom are dyslexia specialists now being asked by their schools to support students with maths difficulties.  I always say that if you found maths difficult yourself you will be a better specialist maths teacher! I speak at conferences and present webinars – when I ask people to keep their cameras on otherwise it is like talking to oneself!

My overarching aim is to make myself redundant – for my students to access their maths in the mainstream classroom and to succeed without my support. I feel enormously lucky to have a career that still excites me – to watch my students gain in confidence as they start to enjoy their maths is a wonderful reward.

Sarah Wedderburn