Today, I had a great conversation with Jennifer Plosz, a math teacher currently at the University of Calgary School of Education who is also a talented visualization expert and is dyslexic.
She had recently been in touch with Dr. Manuel Casanova, the neuropathologist who made the interesting discovery that the minicolumn organization in the brain seemed to exist on a continuum with autistics on one end, dyslexics on the other, and neurotypicals somewhere “in-between.” Jennifer generously donated this infographic to Dyslexic Advantage. It can be purchased HERE in our Dyslexic Advantage Store.
The different pattern of connections might explain why some highly accomplished partnerships in Silicon Valley combine dyslexic executives with those on the spectrum. Creative technology companies, it seems benefit by big picture visionaries and powerful detail-oriented IT professionals.
Jennifer told us that her Canadian school system didn’t recognize dyslexia, but instead labeled all these students as ‘learning-disabled.’ As a result of this deficit-only view, the educational psychologist who tested Jennifer in high school, some 20 years ago, focused her report only on her weaknesses, not even naming areas of giftedness. The only scores reported were in the ‘limiting’ or ‘disabling’ range. The report predicted Jennifer would struggle with “advanced reading and mathematics, related to critical thinking ability . . . and problem solving”, not recognizing that she was already excelling in advanced high school math courses (!).
We will be exploring more of Jennifer’s approaches to math problem solving in our next Premium issue, but here’s an example of how Jennifer illustrates subtraction on a numberline using a story plus two characters.
I’m sorry but the model as a continuum is flawed. For the continuum to be a valid model, it would not be possible to be a big thinker (dyslexic) and detailed oriented (Autisic), yet the world see people possessing both.
Einstein and Jobs are the most obvious examples. I am both.
The better model is to use a triangle with each corner of the triangle being at the extreme end of dyslexia, Autism and neurotypical, with each person being somewhere in the triangle.
I am trying to figure out a good way to teach our severely dyslexic daughter math.(The best way for her.) I am reading Steven Chinn’s books and and watching his tutorials online now. Great to learn more about this subject. Visualization seems to be a very helpful thing. I am not dyselxic myself but I really find it very helpful also.
I found this article very interesting, and look forward to the next part. I’m a year and a half away from finishing my Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and mechanics. The area I’m in can very math intensive. Ironically I have both dyslexia and dyscalculia to the point I was in special ed classes as a kid. I’m now in one of the top research universities in the world. I also hid the fact I have dyslexia since it has such a negative stereotype to it. I tell those who know it is like a hero with superpowers, but they have some kind of weakness i.e. Superman and kryptonite. You have to learn over time how to work around the issues and leverage your strengths. For me once I can visualize the equations they become so real I feel like I can reach out and touch them, but if you just gave me a string of numbers to memorize or calculate quickly I would just laugh! I do find addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division can be fun if I can sit and think about how the number fit together like blocks or shapes, this is not exactly a fast and speedy way to do things, but it takes some normally boring and makes it fun.
Yes, it is interesting to look at the different paths we take as we attempt to navigate school. You clearly made it through with flying colors. Things are definitely moving in the right direction for those with our profile, and there seems to be increasing awareness of not a purely deficit view on students who struggle with school at an early age, but we still have a LONG way to go. I recently picked up the book “Burn Math Class”, written by a graduate student who hated math in school but then picked up a calculus book from the bookstore and was fascinated by the subject, so much so that he took a course in University, loved it, took another course, loved it, and went on to study mathematics full time. Math really is about growing and creating a mini universe in your head. So, interesting, but it ends up being taught in such an unproductive and dry way. I’m glad you found your way through, now we just need to help others do the same.
Thank you for the heads up on the book. I’m going to check it out.