The Surprise of Numicon

Three years ago, I attended a virtual meeting with a parent who was in my on-line CVI course.  I wanted to meet with her because of the story she shared about her son’s CVI journey.  The story was one that is familiar, a story of a less than effective school program.  This mom chose to take responsibility to teach her child at home.  Her at-home program included the use of Numicon, a math support used to address the CVI challenge of understanding numeracy.  I became intrigued and ordered a set immediately after or virtual meeting. 

Numicon (Oxford Primary) is a program that includes “shapes” associated with a number concept of 1 through 10.  Each number shape is associated with a distinct color and contains cut out circles or, holes, that represent the numeracy concept.  For example, the number 3 is a yellow shape with 3 holes. 

Numeracy is of course an inherently a visual concept.  The greater the number of items, the larger the array and resulting visual complexity.  Numicon provides an opportunity for a learner with CVI to associate a stable shape and color with imagery that solidifies the number concept.  This visual aspect of numeracy is certainly more challenging than counting with 1:1 correspondence or visually recognizing a numeral.  The missing piece of information seems to commonly be the “picture” behind the number.  Numicon can help provide this. 

I often suggest Numicon to families or educators.  I believe it can be used to teach number and time concepts across the day in generalizable ways.  I recommend that families place one of each Numicon shape on a ring that can be readily available.  Exposure to the number shapes can be offered not only for direct instruction but also incidentally.  For example, “we’ll leave in 5 minutes”, can be paired with the Numicon for 5.  A parent or provider may announce “there are 3 people in our story group” and again, offer the Numicon for 3.  These experiences can help solidify an understanding that numbers and numeracy represent objects, time, people at the dinner table, and the number of cookies permitted for snack.  This is the nature of authentic numeracy.

Solutions for the challenges encountered by students with CVI come from many directions.  The suggestion for Numicon came to me from the United Kingdom via a creative parent in California.  Thank you.