I have a few students that have difficulties writing. To generalize, these students have nearly illegible handwriting, they take a very long time to write, they become anxious or fatigued when writing large amounts or writing in a timed task, and they also have trouble formatting their work logically on the paper.

Specifically in a high school algebra course, I want to help these students develop strategies to improve their writing or manage the demands of their math classes, so that their writing does not become a major hindrance.

Right now, I allow these students to write very large characters on un-lined or quad-ruled paper, I encourage them to try large pencil grips, and we work on strategies to plan and format work before putting it on the page. I am very familiar with Latex as a computational tool for writing math, but the learning curve is a bit steep for these students. I am curious what remediation strategies and accommodating tools are available to these students, especially computer software and therapeutic exercises.

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    $\begingroup$ I would be impressed if there was a useful answer to this. Given that the nature of mathematical writing is that all redundancy has been squeezed out, I don't hold out a lot of hope for these cases. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 22:01
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    $\begingroup$ I am glad you bring this up though. I tend to have a student or two each semester with abnormally illegible handwriting; it never occurred to me that there might be some motor skill issues... $\endgroup$
    – pjs36
    Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 22:20
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    $\begingroup$ @pjs36, I think also some very-specific cognitive dysfunction in some cases... $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 23:12
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    $\begingroup$ I had a student who broke his arm - I allowed him to type his answers on an exam, while I supervise. He was very bright and did his work in his head, so might not apply to your case. $\endgroup$
    – Amy B
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 15:44

2 Answers 2


(Quick note: I am not a math teacher. I am a CS teacher with a bit of dysgraphia myself. However, my insights here actually came from when I used to be a high school music teacher, where I was practically forced by the subject matter to tackle this problem with my beginning theory, AP Music Theory, and advanced theory classes. Also, there are some nice insights about dysgraphia here.)

I would have a number of these students every year. But musical staves are small, and the writing must be legible to be useful. (You can only imagine the pain of trying to sight-read at the piano, in real time, what dysgraphic students wrote for me!)

Most of the motor issues that I encountered were really cognitive issues. Students with really terrible writing did not understand why it mattered, and thus had never put serious attention and care into figuring out how to write things neatly when they needed to. They didn't really know how to write the letters of the alphabet, and (more importantly to me), they were incapable of simply looking at my treble clefs, or my eighth notes, or my quarter rests, and organically figuring out how to imitate them.

As a result, I actually created worksheets, much like we all got in early grammar school, with every key symbol broken down into small, instructional writing pieces. (Treble clef: First draw the dot on the second line. Try it three times here: Then, make a quarter loop up to the third line like so. Try it three times here: Now, continue the loop down to the first line like this. Try it three times here: ...)

Breaking down how to write the symbols into tiny steps this way was absolutely tedious, but paid off handsomely for me in all of the cleaner writing I received.

For students who needed extra help, I would sit down with them, explain why handwriting mattered in this context, and ask them to copy a page of very nicely done work by another student, with attention paid to making everything precise and neat. I gave them a small amount of extra credit for this work. I didn't mind providing this, as I was asking them to do extra work.


I have cerebral palsy, which makes me almost unable to write legibly by hand. (I can do a bit of scratch work, but that's it.) Discovering LyX changed my life. LyX is basically a user-friendly front end for LaTeX that doesn't require you to memorize commands (you memorize what you use a lot, but that's it) and shows you your equations as you type them. I've used it to write papers and large parts of a textbook in mathematical biology. It's awesome, free, and will run on any operating system.

For drawing and graphing, GeoGebra is terrific. What I particularly like is that you can go back and forth between drawing and using commands. It's also free and available for all operating systems. There are even mobile versions. This is both an adaptive technology and a teaching tool. I wish this kind of software had been available when I was a kid!


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