Developing Numeracy Skills


Teenagers and adults with Down syndrome vary widely in terms of number skills and mathematical ability. Typically, the achievements of individuals with Down syndrome in number are at a lower level than their achievements in literacy. However, there is a wide range of progress and while some teenagers may find Maths difficult, others enjoy it. At second level, many teenagers may still be working on primary targets. They should be helped to consolidate their skills with age-appropriate materials and work on numeracy skills for independent living including money, time and measurement. A functional emphasis to mathematics teaching can help the student to understand the purpose of developing number skills, for example, budgeting their money, splitting a bill in a café, etc.

Well organised teaching, which accommodates the visual learning strengths of people with Down syndrome, promotes learning. Teenagers with Down syndrome follow the same stages of progression in mathematics as their typically developing peers, although often with more steps and practice needed at each stage. The mathematics curriculum during the secondary school years should focus on giving teenagers a basic set of skills for use in their daily lives. It should include learning to tell the time, to measure and to weigh, to understand volume and shape and to understand the money system. The basic principle necessary for all these skill areas is to understand the number system – how to count, knowing that numbers represent quantities, and how to calculate using numbers.

Basic understanding of and working with numbers up to 100 is vital for the secondary pupil with Down syndrome to be able to count, measure and weigh, tell the time and use money for daily activities such as shopping, cooking and work tasks. (Adapted from Down Syndrome Education International)

At post-primary level, mathematics teaching will fall into two main areas:

    • Continued development of number skills (to at least 100), using a structured numeracy teaching programme
    • Learning basic practical skills for independence, including money, time and number recognition for weighing, measuring and other life skills. This requires that teenagers are given opportunities to practise and become competent and confident in such maths-related activities as buying their own lunch, receiving and spending their own money and cooking and preparing food.

Suggested maths activities and targets for teenagers with Down syndrome

    • Lots of experience of numbers- at home and in school through social interaction, saying numbers with others, counting, dice games, board games, wall displays, hearing number used during activities with everyday items
    • Learning the language of maths and number, including words for comparing, contrasting and categorising (more than, less than, highest, etc.)
    • Drawing attention to quantities in play, sports, television programmes and daily routines
    • Learning to count, knowing the order of numbers, understanding that the last count word represents the whole number (cardinality)
    • Using a number line, hundred square and written numerals, for visual supportUsing practical materials which represent the number system visually to support their learning (such as Numicon) • Learning to recognise patterns, matching patterns and arranging items into patterns
    • Learning to recognise numerals, reading from a number line and a 100 square
    • Using money, in practice and especially in real situations
    • Using daily and weekly calendars to develop understanding of time
    • Using a watch and clock to understand time and plan ahead (digital and analogue)

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