In the many years Brock and I spent testing and listening to dyslexic students at every level of education, we often heard first hand accounts of how they learned how to tackle difficult subjects and bypass school-related challenges.

As research studies bear out (for instance, see Kirby’s study of dyslexic university students), many dyslexic students in higher education have arrived at where they are because they are deep learners, savvy about how they learn best, and strategic in how they approach school.


Brain-Based Reasons Why Math Strategies Are Better for Dyslexics Than Drill

But there is also neurobiological evidence that supports why strategies may be a superior route for dyslexic learning compared to drill or simple repetition.

By now, anyone who knows about brain biology and dyslexia has heard about a language-associated area of the left brain called the angular gyrus. When dyslexic kids and adults read, compared to non-dyslexics, there is less involvement of this area. When the reading aspects of dyslexia are compensated (for instance see a summary of Fumiko Hoeft’s work), it’s not a simple restoration of activity in this angular gyrus area, it’s an activation on the right (in her study of adolescents, the right inferior frontal gyrus) that seems to be doing the job.

Well, one interesting thing about this is that that area is the same one that seems to be active with the use of math strategies compared to drill. Math strategies also preferentially involve the precuneus which is a particularly active area in dyslexics as well and is associated with mental imagery (for more on this see Delayzer and colleagues.

As an aside: This also might be why spelling strategies will be a more efficient strategy than mind-numbing spelling drill.

As an example, what strategies could a student learn when trying to master multiplication facts? As someone who probably has dyscalculia, my well-intentioned mother seemed to drill me incessantly on multiplication facts, but as fast as I learned them, the information kept slipping away – or worse got confused with other math facts, which then became hard to unlearn!

One only need to search for “math strategies multiplication” on Pinterest or Google Image Search (some people may prefer to search for videos) to get lots of great ideas about how to teach math strategically rather than just by simple repetition.

For instance,


For video ideas on how to introduce these concepts with manipulatives, check out the Two Boys and Dad blog.

What about multi-digit multiplication? No problem!

The take-home point here is that there are multiple ways to solve problems and reasoning and strategy and often significant strengths that dyslexic students have.

They must know why – and this is the type of knowledge that is enduring. If your student is putting in the hours and making little progress, time to change what you’re doing and employ more strategic methods in your bag of tricks!



Dyslexia | Dyslexic Advantage