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In the context of an undergraduate class focused on proof-writing, a small change in what is written donw can make a big difference to the meaning. Are there any guidelines in use on how to mark such work for students with dyslexia (or similar), who are prone to such errors?

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    $\begingroup$ I see two possible goals: (1) helping a dyslexic student learn and (2) grading fairly. Which of these goals are you after? Also, do you want to know about designing problems that are not that sensitive for dyslexia, or more about marking any given assignment? The topic is interesting and important, but I don't fully understand what it is that you want. $\endgroup$ – Joonas Ilmavirta Jan 18 '16 at 17:02
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    $\begingroup$ As I said, I'm thinking about marking work. The case I'm asking about is where a student knows what they are doing, but the process of writing can easily make it appear otherwise. The specific example that triggered this question was finding $E$ instead of $\exists$. $\endgroup$ – Jessica B Jan 18 '16 at 18:03
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    $\begingroup$ Writing $E$ instead of $\exists$ should have no marks taken off imho. The difference between $\forall \exists$ and $\exists \forall$ is actually substantive, however. $\endgroup$ – Steven Gubkin Jan 18 '16 at 22:27
  • $\begingroup$ My policy would be to mark down fully, as usual, on those items; this serves to highlight that those are the specific items that the students needs to work on. Then on returning the paper to the student, I'd look for an opportunity to think about how it can be improved -- more practice, reading out loud in English, using the lines of the paper better, use of colored pens, some way to double-check, etc.? $\endgroup$ – Daniel R. Collins Jan 19 '16 at 4:16
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    $\begingroup$ Has the student taken other mathematics courses? Can you discuss with previous teachers? $\endgroup$ – Amy B Jan 19 '16 at 13:44
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I work in disability services as an advisor. Your campus disability services office can certainly help you in terms of talking through how to assess and assign a grade. But, as user6251 said, this needs to be in the letter of accommodation, so the student should register with the disability services office. If the office on your campus has never worked with a case like this, there are ample resources available and they can find out how other universities have dealt with the same issue. AHEAD (Association on Higher Education and Disability) may have some resources on their website as well. Recommendations for specific accommodations should come from the student's clinician (usually the psychologist who diagnosed the dyscalculia).

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    $\begingroup$ My understanding, admittedly based on very little, is that dyscalculia would cause rather different problems to dyslexia. Maybe because of ignorance, I would be rather surprised to find a student with dyscalculia attempting a mathematics degree. $\endgroup$ – Jessica B Jan 24 '16 at 15:05
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, they would cause different problems, and some students have both dyslexia and dyscalculia. Either way, unless the student chooses to disclose the specifics of their disability to the instructor, the instructor would simply see the accommodations provided to the students and not the diagnosis. But, when the clinician making the diagnosis provides documentation to the disability services office, it should provide specific recommendations for accommodations, especially if the student has used accommodations in the past. $\endgroup$ – Tamara Reynolds Jan 25 '16 at 17:11
  • $\begingroup$ In terms of student abilities, given what I've seen students be able to accomplish, I wouldn't doubt that a student with dyscalculia could obtain a mathematics degree. There is so much technology that we have access to today. For example, there are blind and visually impaired students who major in subjects like math and physics, even though they cannot see the numbers. $\endgroup$ – Tamara Reynolds Jan 25 '16 at 17:17
  • $\begingroup$ I don't see (no pun intended) how visual imparement is comparable to dyscalculia when talking about studying a maths degree. I don't fully understand how to do calculations without looking at them written down, but I can do some stuff in my head, and some things are better off done differently anyway. On the other hand, the typical signs listed here: bdadyslexia.org.uk/dyslexic/dyscalculia seem to me to limit ones ability to build the necessary understanding of mathematical objects. $\endgroup$ – Jessica B Jan 25 '16 at 19:06
  • $\begingroup$ I wasn't saying they would cause similar issues. Part of the reason that it has become easier for students with visual impairments to succeed in a variety of areas is due to the numerous advances in technology. There are similar advances in technology that help students with both dyslexia and dyscalculia. Saying that a person with dyscalculia cannot become successful in mathematics is simillar to saying that a person with dyslexia cannot become successful in reading. We know that isn't true. $\endgroup$ – Tamara Reynolds Jan 26 '16 at 3:12
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I doubt that any such marking guidelines specialized for dyslexic students at the college level are likely to exist. (I'm not on expert on learning disability issues, but due to the dearth of answers here, I'm going to take a stab at it.)

At the secondary school level in the U.S., it is required by law that students have an Individualized Education Program (IEP), and this can in fact result in different grading criteria for different students based on their ability level. See the ASCD paper, "Grading Students with Disabilities", for suggestions. Warning: As an anecdote, this may result in the experience of an acquaintance of mine: her middle-school son has an autistic classmate who is effectively nonfunctional, disruptive on a daily basis, and simultaneously carrying the highest grade in the class.

At the college level in the U.S., IEP's do not exist (to my knowledge; definitely not as a matter of law). The emphasis here is generally on a uniform assessment and reporting rubric, with accommodations for doing the work from the accessibility office. In the last few years, the recommendation has come in the form of Universal Design for Learning (UD), possibly including flexible assignments options for different students. (For example, this is now highly recommended by our school's Accessibility Office.) See a primer on UD from the DO-IT foundation at the University of Washington, "Academic Accommodations for Students with Learning Disabilities". Warning: When I've studied UD in the past, I've found the recommendations for math classes to be effectively incoherent, and clearly disconnected from anything a math educator would say (e.g., let students talk to each other during tests; have another instructor come in and write formulas on the board during testing; eliminate word problems because that doesn't really count as math). Also, part of the attraction of UD for accessibility specialists is that it reduces their workload by having instructors do it instead.

In summary: For the U.S., individuated grading procedures on the same assignment are sometimes seen at the secondary level and below, but they are generally not a consideration at the college level. However, allowing students to choose from among several possible assignment options may replicate that effect.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks. The suggestions that make no sense in maths are the sort of thing I've been led to expect from general policies, which is why I hoped someone here might know of more useful ideas. $\endgroup$ – Jessica B Jan 23 '16 at 21:05
  • $\begingroup$ Daniel, accommodations in higher education are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. No, IDEA does not apply but the ADA and Section 504 do. Universal Design is not the only way that accommodations are handled. There are certainly other alternative assessment methods that happen at the post-secondary level. That is why I referred him to AHEAD. Depending on the size of the campus you are at and the number of students with disabilities being served, there may be other schools that have much more experience in this area. $\endgroup$ – Tamara Reynolds Jan 24 '16 at 4:52
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This is certainly a question for the Disability Services Office at your college or University. They will have any existing policy for your school.

In my experience (at 2 different schools), I recieve a letter from Disability Services detailing the accommodations a student is entitled to. I can't say that I've ever knowingly taught a student with dyslexia, because it is none of my business what the disability is and the accomodation letter doesn't (and shouldn't) say. I can say that I've never recieved a letter asking me to grade something differently. The most common accomodations I see are extended time on assignments and notetakers.

I have had a few conversations with Disability services offices before about students, and in those instances the Disability Services people told me specifically not to go beyond the scope of the official accomodation letters (i.e. don't grade any differently).

If a student has told you (the instructor) that they have a disability, but they haven't gone to Disability Services, I would direct them to that office as soon as possible.

(This answer is based on experiences at American Universities.)

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    $\begingroup$ The disability service would decide whether a student can be treated as having dyslexia. They won't know anything about what that has to do with writing mathematics. $\endgroup$ – Jessica B Jan 18 '16 at 15:30
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    $\begingroup$ @JessicaB wouldn't the office understand the concept that reversing letters can have an affect on mathematical content? They might have a policy or advice if the specific case is described and asked about. $\endgroup$ – Amy B Jan 19 '16 at 13:43

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