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What is Dyscalculia?

This is a term used to indicate a lack of ability to perform mathematical calculations. This condition is associated with neurological dysfunction.

Students with Dyscalculia have difficulty processing numbers. It is a significant learning disability, often showing up in students with other learning difficulties, which can mask the Dyscalculia. It is not related to any lack of intellectual ability.

If a student has difficulty following lines of text or numbers, working out problems is impaired. For example: a ‘+’ sign can look very much like an ‘x’ , which makes solving problems such as 4+1 become 4x1 which results in a different, and wrong, answer. Although research is improving on why this happens, remediation may require a variety of techniques to be assessed for their effectiveness with an individual learner.

Some indicators of Dyscalculia are:

  • Inability to learn how to tell the time on an analogue clock, after a reasonable period of instruction
  • Inability to understand the size of numbers
  • Inability to count change and understand the actual amounts of money involved

After a diagnosis has been made using a specialist assessment, some activities may assist with remediation:

  • Games where counting is involved, such as snakes and ladders,
  • Games such as Scrabble where players are asked to add up very small numbers and are instantly rewarded,
  • Using concrete items to represent numbers, and manipulating these to obtain an answer,
  • Rote learning when the student has an understanding of the value of numbers

Adapted from: Butterworth B ‘The Mathematical Brain’; London; Papermac; 2000

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