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Math Advice for Dyslexics?

  1. Jul 19, 2014 #1
    I'm a middle-aged man with a job and family, so I'm no longer in school, but I'm hungry to learn about Physics as I possibly can.

    Of course that means I need to learn the maths involved, but there's a problem—I'm severely dyslexic. I've been doing the courses at Khan Academy, which is great because I can watch the videos and do the problems over and over and over again at my ridiculously slow pace.

    It's good. I'll learn eventually, but I have so far to go and it's taken me so long to get where I'm at (the equivalent of Algebra 2), that I'm seeking out advice from anyone with experience overcoming dyslexia to excel at (or at least be competent with) the maths required for a meaningful understanding of physics.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 20, 2014 #2


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    Hmm, what I know of dyslexia is that dyslexics have trouble distinguishing left from right, they will often mistake them. Also, they have trouble with writing, for example confusing b's and d's.

    But what I have seen is that people who have a learning difficulty can fall behind in school and start to think that their difficulty is very severe. An example is a person who needs glasses but doesn't want to say anything. They can't read the board and so fall behind. Or a dyslexic person may find writing the solutions more challenging, they may make more mistakes. Getting lower marks, they start to try less hard and fall behind.

    But someone I knew who was dyslexic, who I used to help with math, would understand anything I explained to him, it wasn't that he couldn't understand things. He just found it more difficult to learn.

    Incognito310, I'm going to assume that you find it difficult to learn, but once you have learned something or once something has been explained, you do understand it quite well. I think this must be true because it is what I have experienced. Also, I'm going to assume that are not just asking about ways to learn, but also about what to learn next so that you can learn physics.

    Math in school takes a bit of a turn after algebra 2, it becomes more abstract. It starts dealing with functions and graphs, and questions we can ask about the graph: what is the slope at a point, what is the area under the graph, etc. Before, it was questions like "how much grain can the silo hold?", now it is "what is the volume of the cylinder?". This can make it harder to remember things because they can seem less real. The way to counter this is to do the exercises and to try to find the best way to answer the questions, and practice, practice, practice.

    Okay, enough theory. You say you are at the equivalent of Algebra 2. I'm going to recommend books because it is important not to have any fear. If you are a little scared of learning from a book, that is perfectly understandable. But the right books are really the best way to get everything you need.

    Are you in the USA? If so, consider getting this book (it is very cheap), it covers essentially all the algebra you will need for physics (and more). Some of the topics you can skip, complex numbers for example. But if you like, you can learn them as well, you will see it is just another type of algebra with similar rules.

    I've chosen that book because I know it is very complete (and clear). If you have any trouble, you can always go to Khan Academy and see how they explain something. You can also ask questions on these forums, of course. Your aim should be to work though chapters 0-5, doing about half the questions for each chapter. The later chapters 6-9 are more advanced, being usually taught in college, and they aren't too relevant for physics, so I would just skip them.

    There is also trigonometry that you will need to learn. Of course I will recommend this one by the same author, but trigonometry books are all similar to each other.

    One thing though, I would focus on algebra first, trigonometry is easiest when you know algebra really well, so this needs to be a staggered approach.

    Anyway, this is probably all the math you need to start learning physics. For that, a book like this one by Giancoli would be fine, I think.
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