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What is Dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia is a specific learning disability (SpLD) that affects a person’s ability to acquire arithmetical skills.

People with dyscalculia find it hard to understand basic number concepts and/or number relationships. They struggle to comprehend the relative magnitudes of numbers and have poor recall of basic number facts. Dyscalculia people also have difficulty recognising patterns and working with symbols.

It is estimated that between 4% and 6% of the population suffer with dyscalculia.

Dyscalculia is a specific and persistent difficulty in understanding numbers which can lead to a divers range of difficulties with mathematics. It will be unexpected in relation to age, level of education and experience and occurs across all ages and abilities.

Mathematics difficulties are best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category , and they have many causal factors. Dyscalculia falls at one end of the spectrum and will be distinguishable from other maths issues due to the severity of difficulties with number sense, including subitising, symbolic and non-symbolic magnitude comparison, and ordering. It can occur singly but often co-occurs with other specific learning difficulties, mathematics anxiety and medical conditions.

BDA/SASC (2019)

Top ten Tips for teaching children with dyscalculia

1. Use concrete materials, such as Cuisenaire rods or base ten materials

2. Spend time exploring these and don’t take them away too soon, they will help to develop the child’s understanding.

3. Play games with dice and dominoes so that the child can recognise common dot patterns.

4. Try to encourage the child to use more efficient calculating strategies, such as counting on rather than counting all.

5. Encourage the child to visualise the maths- by drawing diagrams and using concrete materials to model the maths.

6. Make the maths practical and multisensory- avoid worksheets.

7. Spend time on place value so that it is fully understood, this can be a very difficult concept to grasp.

8. Have a little and often approach- repetition and ‘overlearning’ will help.

9. Use mathematical language as much as possible and encourage the child to do the same.

10. Give multiplication grids and number bonds to reduce the stress of having to remember these facts.

Judy Hornigold Sept 2021