Loading Add to favorites

by Nicole Lauzon, OCT, Educational Consultant, LDAO

Image of straws


In Grade 1, children with dyscalculia usually don’t know the names of basic numbers (9 means “nine”). They also have difficulty judging which number is larger or smaller (e.g., they don't know that 9 is larger than 8). […] Children with dyscalculia are more likely to become anxious about math. Their anxiety may lead them to avoid math which can make it even more difficult to learn basic math skills.

Preventing Math Learning Difficulties,
Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development, 2011

Children with learning disabilities(LDs) in math may have difficulty grasping what a number is and understanding the connection between a quantity and the corresponding symbol. For these children, place value is a difficult concept to grasp.

Place value can be explained as follows

When quantities of objects become larger, grouping them together is a way to represent the quantities more easily; every time you have 10 units, you have another ten. Every time you have 10 groups of ten, you have a hundred, and so forth.

Overview of the Activity

To help children with LDs in math to understand this principle, offer them situations involving a variety of familiar objects that are readily available in large quantities (for example: straws, stir sticks, paper clips, buttons, or pieces of pasta).

Students will perform actions with these materials, placing them in groups, and then undoing and re-doing the groups.

This grouping activity will quickly provide the children with information on the quantities they are working with. Activities should always involve verbalization of thinking strategies, questions about what the children see, and immediate feedback.

Try this activity with your students with the help of LD@school's lesson plan below !

image of Lesson plan template

Click here to access the printable lesson plan and student handout.


These materials may also be used to introduce the students to decimal numbers or comparing numbers. To introduce one-tenth, cut a straw into ten pieces that are roughly equal in length.

Related Resources on the LD@school website

Click here to access the video Collaborative Teacher Inquiry to Support Students with LDs in Math.

Click here to access the resource Counting to 99.

Click here to access the article Verbalization in Math Problem-Solving.


Guilloux, R. (2009). L’effet domino « DYS ». Les Éditions de la Chenelière: Montréal.

Daudelin, M. (2006). Apprendre à sa façon. Les Éditions de la Chenelière: Montréal.

Denny, Y., Valentin, D. (no date). Jeux mathématiques en maternelle. Accessed from: http://www.ac-grenoble.fr/ien.bourgoin2/IMG/pdf_Jeux_mathematiques_en_mat.pdf

Helayel, J., Causse-Mergui, I. (2011). 100 idées pour aider les élèves « dyscalculiques ». Éditions Tom Pousse: Paris.

Gagné, P. Leblanc, N., Rousseau, A. (2009). Apprendre…une question de stratégies: Développer les habiletés liées aux fonctions exécutives. Les Éditions de la Chenelière: Montréal.