Yes! You Should Teach Math to Preschool and First Grade Students

Young children love to touch and feel concrete objects. They love to move and immerse themselves in their surroundings. They are curious about everything around them. Maria Montessori knew this and incorporated sensory activities into early learning lessons. 

Deborah Stipek, a Stanford University professor and former dean of education, has researched how children learn math and best teaching practices for success with math.  She has long predicted that we are not paying enough attention to math instruction in schools. Early math instruction provides children with a strong foundation to build on just as it does for literacy. Her research as well as that of others, points out how, “Math can predict reading success and failure.” 

The research is supporting the statement, but so far the reason is not really confirmed. It is thought that perhaps it is related to executive function.  Further research points to how high school math failure begins with early number knowledge in first grade. Preschool children and first graders can learn to love math if it is taught through multisensory methods. 

This is where a passion for math begins, or at the least it eliminates failure. Learn more about Stipek’s research and recommendations for early learners here.

Learn more about Multisensory OG Math.

Dyslexia in the News

                                   There is help for dyslexia. 

                                  There is help for dyslexia. 

Dyslexia can be a devastating condition if left untreated. It can impact reading, writing, math and self-confidence.

However, at Prospect Centre we know that teaching children with dyslexia can be a rewarding experience.

It takes the combination of skilled instruction and caring. Our OG practitioners have both. 

Sometimes it's difficult for those not affected with dyslexia to grasp the impact of dyslexia on a child's life. 

This video explains both the deep frustration and  great success that people with dyslexia can experience. 

Let us know if we can answer your questions about how we teach our students with dyslexia.

Contact Tracey at



A Memory, Processing and Learning Difficulties Conference

This is your chance to attend a conference that zeros in on key reasons for working memory difficulties and links them to key

strategies for reading, writing and other aspects of dyslexia which can prevent effective learning.

Learn how to identify learning difficulties that effect your child or student and find out what to do about it.

You'll leave with a clear understanding of the challenges children face day-to-day in school and exactly what you can do to make important changes that will lead to success. 

Find out more and register  Here

Why the Prospect Centre logo is a robust tree.


Our tree represents potential and growth built on a strong foundation at its core and in its root philosophy. That foundation is the Orton-Gillingham Approach for teaching which a rich enduring form of instruction. It is the perfect process for teaching every child who is struggling to learn or improve their basic skills.

If you are seeking support for your child, it’s important to know that Orton Gillingham instruction is highly successful but it is not a quick fix formula. Strong, durable learning takes time. At Prospect Centre, Orton Gillingham teaching has these elements at its core so your child will succeed.

Potential – Each student is an individual with strengths that are developed and strengthened through individual lessons for each and every student.

Discovery – While focussing on these strengths our practitioners learn daily what works best to maximize learning and retention for each individual child. Thus, our students discover the best way they learn, so all learning both inside and outside of Prospect Centre is made stronger.

Outlook – our students begin to see themselves as strong learners. They are able to navigate learning challenges with the skills, tools and deep understanding of their own learning needs. 


We believe everyone has valuable traits, and therefore everyone can develop those into real skills and worthwhile contributions to life. Contact us at anytime.         

The Prospect Centre for Learning is Hiring!

The Prospect Centre for Multisensory Learning in White Rock/South Surrey is currently hiring qualified OG practitioners. 

At Prospect we know that some children learn differently. That’s why our innovative Orton Gillingham approach is highly individualized; evidence based and designed to meet the learning needs of each student. 

Interested applicants require Orton-Gillingham certification and CATT membership among their other qualifications. Academy certification may be in process if the applicant is qualified. 

After school hours are required. Please send resume and cover letter to the attention of our Executive Director:

The Prospect Centre for Multisensory Learning is an academic Orton-Gillingham based remediation centre. Prospect Centre utilizes a team approach that optimizes students’ instruction through a collaborative approach led by the Executive Director and including the Office Manager, and OG Practitioners. 

Each staff member’s expertise, creativity and unwavering commitment to each and every student result in the success of our program as we provide educational therapy in reading, spelling, writing and math to students with dyslexia and other learning challenges. 

Extended benefits are available for full time employees 20+ hours/ week when those positions are available. A portion of the employee's work schedule may include completion of curriculum materials for the centre and occasional reception/office duties to assist the Office Manager when she is otherwise engaged 

To learn more about our centre, visit our website at:

We look forward to hearing from you. Resumes and cover letters will be received at

References will be contacted during office hours. Only individuals whose resumes suggest they are suitable for the position will be contacted by email for an interview during office hours. 

We look forward to hearing from you. 


Be Aware of Educational Promises Too Good to be True!

The Good News for Effective Help and Warning Signs to Avoid Getting Off Track.

The school year is up and running. 

It’s the perfect time for parents and teachers of students who struggle with reading, writing and math skills to think about finding the very best help for their children and students.  

It is also Dyslexia Month; a time to focus on children whose reading and math skills often do not keep up with their peers, or only do so with an extraordinary amount of hard work. 

The International Dyslexia Association or IDA provides excellent guidelines to help parents and teachers find appropriate instruction for these children. 

First the Good News:

Most Reading Difficulties can be resolved or diminished.

IDA has established knowledge and practice standards to inform and develop knowledgeable and skilled teachers so that all students in every classroom can benefit from successful literacy instruction.

The need for good teaching instruction in every classroom has been clearly documented.

The Bad News:

Not all educational promises meet the knowledge and practice standards. Some make promises of a quick fix that are just too good to be true. Others while meaning well, do not provide long term gains that translate into academic success.

IDA cautions parents and teachers to:

  1. Be Aware: parents and educators will do almost anything to help a child who is struggling in school. This makes it all too easy to get taken in by treatments and programs that make big promises, but do little except waste valuable time and resources.
  2. Be Wary of: Exaggerated claims, false guarantees, pseudo science and quick fix claims. Be  wary of any approach  that focuses on fixing a single underlying condition to address complex difficulties.

And There is More Good News:

IDA provides guidelines to evaluate treatments and programs for struggling students.

  1. Ask questions. Do treatments and skills gains actually transfer into improved reading, writing, math or study skills?
  2. Invest time well for the long term. When a child fails to progress, frustration and loss of self-esteem can be devastating. Time is lost and hopes are dashed.  Best practices and interventions are most effective when the brain is most plastic (or young). Wasting time during the early years can have life-long consequences.

It ‘s important to recognise a solid structured approach to reading and math instruction that will move your child or student forward this school year and those to come.

Take some time to ask the questions you need to ask and consider your educational options without pressure.

We wish you great success in your education journey. 

The Prospect Centre Team.

Contact Form

You can use the following form to contact Marilyn. 





The Final Pieces to OG Math Strategies - How Math and Language are Strongly Connected

Here's what we've all been waiting for: the final four of our ten techniques for helping the struggling math students, O-G style. You can read about techniques 1 through 6 in our previous blog posts

7.  Help them to talk the talk, as they walk the walk. The difficulties that students have with the language of mathematics are the same as their difficulties in learning the English language: vocabulary terms, syntax, semantics and discourse features are difficult. (In fact, don't we all have to stop, sometimes, and think again about which number is the called the divisor and which one is the dividend?)  Drawings, cue cards and diagrams are useful in much the same way as pictures are sometimes used to reinforce letter sounds and key words in O-G. Directions should be given clearly; key vocabulary must be repeated often and reinforced continually. Let's say that again. Key vocabulary must be repeated often and reinforced continually.  In other words, key vocabulary must be repeated often and ... you get the idea.

8.  Knowing the language, not just the words.  There's a story about a tourist who was anxious to show off his newly found fluency in German, when he ordered coffee at a Berlin restaurant.  As the waiter brought his order, he said, confidently, “Danke Schoen” (Thank You) to which the waiter replied, “Bitte.” (You're welcome), and the tourist said, “No, it's not bitter at all.” Likewise, the instructor must directly teach the real world use of new vocabulary. Connect new words to known with information that is interesting and generates “rich connections” (Stahl S 2004). The technical terms related to math concepts such as numerator, denominator, quotient, multiples and factors must be practiced repeatedly in a multisensory manner on word cards, tactile surfaces, and reference charts. It isn’t enough to know the words; students must have the concrete VAKT experience that makes the concepts lively and memorable.

9. Colour me confident. The use of a colour code or visual cueing is another effective way of focusing attention and sequencing steps in place value. For example, a separate colour may be designated for the ones, tens, and hundreds columns. It helps with recall of information and identifies starting and stopping points when punctuation is highlighted in colour within word problems. Another colour highlighter may be used for important key words thus providing cues to an appropriate response. Such strategies increase the student’s ability to be independent. (Thornton & Bley, 2005; Kramer, 1983)

10. When the going gets tough, the tough get all of the tools out of their toolbox ... or something like that. Moving from the simple to the complex is another key O-G teaching concept. There is more than one way to gradually add bits of new information when working through math equations. Teach alternate strategies to students through the use of manipulatives and the drawing step: drawing a picture, sketching a sequence, looking for a pattern, making predictions (Foss, 1991), and making a simpler or more authentic problem, trial and error, acting it out, recording results on a table or chart. These are strategies that enrich and empower students mathematically as they bridge over to traditional algorithms and generalizations."


Math isn't just a numbers game...

Math isn't just a numbers game:  writing, drawing, and talking about solving problems

As we discussed last time, teachers trying to help students who struggle with math need to use a variety of techniques. You can go back and review techniques 1, 2, and 3 in the last post. And, if you visualize a number line, you can see that number 3 is followed by numbers 4, 5 and 6. So technique number 4 is ... (drumroll)

4.  Use drawings (TA-DA!) to translate and visualize math concepts. Drawings in math are known as the representational level. They are crucial in helping students make the connection between the materials (at the concrete level of understanding) and numbers or formulas (at the abstract level of understanding.) Students' drawings, verbal explanations, and journals legitimately testify to their understanding of Math concepts .  Those drawings are also quite often easier to retrieve from memory than pen and paper tasks.

5.    Let's Give Them Something To Talk About, as Bonnie Raitt famously sang.  Technique number 5 is a mouthful of jargon that has its own acronym : S.O.M. or Simultaneous Oral Math. It's an adaptation ofthe Orton-Gillingham technique of Simultaneous Oral Spelling, or S.O.S. which is translated into a math format. It simply means that teachers need to encourage students to think aloud when solving problems, and have students give oral explanations of the thinking that leads to their solutions. With the O-G Math approach the teacher has the benefit of clearly understanding that the student will need time to process information before making a response.

6.    Let's take turns. As every O-G practitioner knows, demonstrated knowledge includes three things: comprehension of task demands, articulation of one’s own approach to the learning of similar tasks, and a grasp of the appropriate strategies for the task. The diagnostic/prescriptive aspect of O-G is easily employed with SOM when we hear the thinking process behind the student’s approach to solutions and see the results of their efforts on a day to day basis. By verbalizing step by step how a math problem is solved, students can self-correct their mistakes. And self-correction is where confidence and independence is built in O-G lessons.

When students write, draw or orally compose their own original word problems, these can be adapted and used for review. When teacher and student take turns writing and adding carefully measured complexity to math word problems, this activity can reinforce students’ reading and writing skills.

We'll finish out the top ten in our next post. Be sure to watch for it.

3 Ways to Succeed with Math Using the VAKT Approach

Do you feel inadequate teaching math to struggling math students who just don’t get it? 

 Join the club.

At one time or another, almost every teacher has had to deal with those kinds of feelings. It's not at all unusual for teachers and tutors to feel unprepared for the task at hand.

    Unfortunately, mathematical instruction for remedial and special education students has primarily focused on helping an entire class with the acquisition of basic skills and traditional arithmetic (Chinn, Ashcroft 2007; Montague, Jitendra, 2006). But, clearly, we also need to adapt mathematics instruction to respond to individual student’s needs (Gersten, Jordon, Flojo, 2005).

         For example, one of the things you realize when dealing with dyslexia and math learning disabilities is that teaching and learning are multisensory. In 1979, Dr. Joyce Steeves wrote one of the earliest papers to suggest a multisensory approach to the teaching of mathematics. Dr. Steeves advocated the same teaching principles for teaching mathematics as Dr. Samuel Orton had suggested for language.

We know today that these multisensory strategies are effective for all students. What are they? The VAKT approach. VAKT stands for visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile. It's a fancy way of saying that you should help students see, hear, move and touch things as they try to understand a problem. This approach is especially helpful to students with “short attention spans” as they are not expected to merely sit still and learn the material. Instead, they manipulate tangible concrete objects that help them conceptualize abstract concepts. By using the O-G approach to support the teaching of both language acquisition AND Mathematics, we discover the best practices for the teaching of math in general.

In the next few posts, I’ll outline 10 techniques that I’ve found most effective for teaching students who struggle with math.

Today will focus on the first 3 Big VAKT Ideas:

         1. Touch it – Feel it – Move it Make math playful and concrete. It's long been a best practice in math education to teach concepts with concrete materials and examples. Wise teachers know that it's only when the vocabulary and the process are understood, that they can then move to a more abstract approach.

         2. Challenge and Creativity:   Instructors are at their best when they use their creativity to further their student’s understanding of math concepts, instead of merely relying on flash cards and worksheets. At the same time, students learn in an enjoyable way with all senses engaged while making connections between the concrete ideas they’ve experienced and the abstract concepts they need for quick recall.

         3. Have Success with a Solid Plan: Don't you love it when a plan comes together? You can use what we call a cumulative structure and sequence designed to flow through lessons automatically. Yes, those are a lot of big words, but concentrate on the "automatic" part. OG Math has a built in structure for strengthening thinking skills.

We'll take a closer look at developing automaticity and thinking skills in the next post.

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