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ASL - Maths problems mastered

Children with learning difficulties can benefit from being encouraged to find their own way to solve arithmetic problems, according to new research from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.

A study by Lio Moscardini, a specialist in additional support needs in Strathclyde's faculty of humanities and social sciences, found children dealt better with arithmetical problems if they used intuitive strategies involving number blocks, drawings or breaking an equation up into smaller, simpler parts, rather than being instructed in arithmetical facts and procedures.

Nearly all teachers taking part felt pupils benefited and several said they had underestimated pupils' ability and potential.

The children's solutions, which they had not been taught in advance, included:

- answering a question about how many children are on a bus, after a group gets on, by representing two sets of children with cubes, drawings or fingers and joining the sets together;

- splitting up the sum 48 + 25 by adding 40 to 20, then adding eight and five separately for the total of 73.

The children were found to follow the same path in understanding adding, subtraction, multiplication and division as those who did not have the same difficulties.

The research paper, `I Like It Instead of Maths' has been published in the `British Journal of Special Education': Volume 37; Issue 3, pages 130-138 (DOI: 10.1111j.1467-8578.2010.00461.x).

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