In a world heavily reliant on numerical skills, individuals who struggle with mathematics face unique challenges that can significantly impact their daily lives. Dyscalculia, often called mathematical Dyslexia, is estimated to affect 6% of people, yet research and understanding of dyscalculia is about 30 years behind that of Dyslexia.
What is Dyscalculia?
Dyscalculia is a specific learning difficulty primarily affecting mathematical skills and number processing. It is not simply a result of a lack of effort or poor teaching but is rooted in neurological differences. Dyscalculic individuals may struggle with various mathematical tasks, including basic arithmetic, understanding mathematical symbols and concepts, and even estimating quantities. Keep in mind that all people can occasionally struggle with math. Those with dyscalculia will struggle to a greater extent than their peers, and their difficulties will continue over time.
Dyscalculia is not the same as math anxiety, but people with dyscalculia can react strongly to activities involving numbers; for instance, they may get upset or frustrated when playing board games.
– Trouble learning to count.
– Difficulty connecting a number to an object, such as knowing that “3” applies to groups of things like 3 cakes, 3 cars, or 3 friends.
– Difficulty with sequencing and pattern spotting.
Signs in Primary School:
– Difficulty learning and recalling basic number facts.
– Finds mental arithmetic tasks tricky.
– Often confuses mathematical symbols.
– Struggles to recognize that 3 + 5 is the same as 5 + 3.
– Has trouble with place value, often putting numbers in the wrong column.
– Difficulties with mathematical language and word problems.
– Has trouble keeping score in sports or games.
– Difficulty remembering how to do a calculation or follow a procedure.
– Avoids situations requiring understanding numbers, like playing games involving math.
How can Dyscalculia be Assessed?
A math screening can be conducted to see if there are traits of dyscalculic behaviour that need further investigation through a formal diagnostic assessment. The British Dyslexia Association recommends that a formal diagnostic assessment should only conducted by an assessor who is qualified at level 7 in the assessment of dyscalculia and/or has either AMBDA dyscalculia or an APC. An Educational Psychologist can also conduct an assessment.
How can you Support your Child?
- Use concrete manipulatives such as Cuisenaire Rods, Diene’s apparatus, dot patterns, and Numicon to give a better sense of numbers. This helps your child visually internalise what a number looks and feels like.
- Get them to match digits or numerals with visual quantities and learn how numbers can be deconstructed to make other numbers; in much the same way, children with Dyslexia are specifically taught to match letters to sounds and how to deconstruct and reconstruct words from letters and sounds.
- Draw mathematical problems so they can begin to visualise and understand them. Talking through the problem can also be very helpful.
- Break mathematical tasks/problems into smaller steps so they feel manageable.