One of the most common side effects of dyscalculia is the inability to handle sequences. By which I mean the order in which things occur.
Most of us never even think about the concept of sequences, because we grasp the notion of a natural order of events as something totally obvious. The fact that one puts on one’s shoe before attempting to tie the shoelace is so obvious that even mentioning it seems strange.
But for the person with dyscalculia this is not always the case.
However a difficulty with sequencing for people with dyscalculia is perhaps not too surprising since numbers are themselves normally recognised in sequence. 1, 2, 3, 4 is a sequence of numbers, each number increasing by one to make the next number.
3, 6, 9, 12 is another sequence, and so on.
But there are many other sequences in life, ranging from the colours of the rainbow (in order from top to bottom), to the days of the week. From the order in which we put our clothes on in the morning, to the route that we take to and from our place of work.
It does seem that there is a very strong link between the ability to deal with such sequences and the ability to understand and use maths and that practice in the use of sequences can enhance a person’s ability to understand maths.
One great benefit of this realisation is that while a child with dyscalculia may well become upset or annoyed at being asked to work on her or his maths every day, sequences can be varied so much that it is often easier to engage the dyscalculic child in sequence activity without it ever become a chore or a trial. It is just an ever-changing game.
Thus we might play a game while taking a child to school or bringing the child home in which the child has to tell the accompanying adult the journey that is to be taken. As with the fact that on leaving the front door of the house one turns left. Then at the cross roads, we wait for the pedestrian light and then walk straight across the road.
The child therefore describes the journey in advance, and then sees that it is right and that nothing has been missed.
A totally different type of sequence comes with the order of plants in a garden, or a phone number. In the latter case the numbers are undoubtedly random, so the child and adult can work together to give some meaning.
For the child who loves football, the sequence of events in the game can be explored. The players get changed, the teams come onto the pitch, the referee tosses the coin, the players go to their respective ends, the team that loses the toss kicks off…
Another approach, and one that is mentioned elsewhere on this site, involves stating the order of events followed in having a bath, ranging from putting the plug in and turning the tap/s on, through to removing one’s clothes before getting in the water.
All of these can work in strengthening an awareness of sequence – but it is important to ensure that they stay at the level of a game rather than something that must be learned. Being able to recite the order of events for having a bath, without actually thinking about the events, is not that much of a benefit. It is the thinking process that really makes mastering sequences an important aspect of the dyscalculic individual’s education.
Thus working on sequences can be beneficial – especially if it removes the individual from it being yet another daily run through of learning times table. And it is found in many cases as being a way of enhancing the brain’s natural grasp of order, and for this reason can be very helpful indeed.