About Dyscalculia

A brain-based condition that makes it hard to make sense of numbers and maths concepts

It is estimated that between 4% and 6% of the population have Dyscalculia and experience significant Maths difficulties despite good performance in other subjects (Butterworth, 2001), while others will experience it in conjunction with other disorders such as Dyslexia, ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorders. For some people the difficulties are only concerned with arithmetic and other areas of maths such as geometry and algebra are unaffected. Although no two people will present with identical profiles, common difficulties that they may have include:

  • Weakness in estimating even small numbers of objects, without counting
  • Counting objects inconsistently
  • Lack of confidence in answers – keep rechecking or recounting to make sure
  • Continue to use their fingers long after most of their peers
  • Difficulty in counting backwards
  • Difficulty learning and remembering number facts and times tables
  • Confusion reading/writing numbers with zeros in them
  • Rigidly sticking to one method when calculating
  • Finding mental calculations difficult
  • Reversal of digits when reading/writing numbers
  • Confusion between “teen” and “ty” numbers, especially in number sequences
  • Difficulty in reading clocks and telling the time
  • Finding it hard to recognise or see patterns in numbers
  • Difficulty in using reasoning methods when calculating
  • Using money – always pay with notes rather than coins

Teaching methods to support learning:

  • Use dice/spot cards (see dotspot cards) to build a sense of each number and their comparative value (without reference to their digits)
  • Use apparatus such as Cuisenaire Rods, Base 10, Numicon or money to explore and understand the base 10 place value system.
  • Use visual / pictorial explanations/diagrams to help explain new ideas and concepts
  • Insist that learners always use complete sentences to link the question asked with the eventual answer and explain how they know, an answer is right – my favourite word to encourage this is “because….”
  • Encourage use of reasoning methods, rather than counting, to calculate. (i.e. IF 5 + 5 = 10 THEN 5+6 = ? BECAUSE …