What is Dyscalculia? Find out how to identify and assess it
Published on 24/03/2021
Dyscalculia is an under-researched learning difficulty worldwide and as a result there is little guidance for teachers on how to support students with the condition. We would like to take this opportunity to provide you with some valuable insights into dyscalculia, the indicators and how to assess it. It is estimated that between 5% and 8% of children have dyscalculia.
What is Dyscalculia?
Many academics have tried to define dyscalculia. The below definitions are the ones most commonly used:
- Dyscalculia is a condition that affects the ability to acquire arithmetical skills. Dyscalculic learners may have difficulty understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers, and have problems learning number facts and procedures. Even if they produce a correct answer or use a correct method, they may do so mechanically and without confidence. (DfES 2001)
- A congenital condition: its effects on the learning of numerical skills can be very profound. (Butterworth)
- Dysfunction in the reception, comprehension or production of quantitative and spatial information (Sharma).
Indicators of Dyscalculia
There are many indicators of dyscalculia and not all of them are maths related. These include:
- An inability to subitise even very small quantities
- Poor number sense
- An inability to estimate whether a numerical answer is reasonable
- Inability to notice patterns
- Inability to generalise
- Slow processing speed
- Immature strategies - for example counting all instead of counting on
- Weaknesses in both short-term and long-term memory
- An inability to count backwards reliably
- Weakness in visual and spatial orientation
- Directional confusion
- Difficulty sequencing
- Difficulty with language
- Poor memory for facts and procedures
- Difficulties in word problems and multi-step calculations
- Problems with all aspects of money
- Marked delay in learning to tell the time
How do you Identify and Assess for Dyscalculia?
There are numerous ways to test for dyscalculia. Below are the most popular ways:
- Screener - We have developed a multi-sensory dyscalculia screener, which contains clear visual and audio instructions, is learner-friendly and easy to follow. In order to help as many children as possible be diagnosed and get support for dyscalculia, we provide our screener to schools free of charge. For more information and to request our screener, please click here.
- Questionnaire/ Checklists – BDA Dyscalculia Checklist.
- Observation – the key things here are to observe how the learner attempts a question, look for signs for stress and encouraging them to verbalise how they are attempting the maths.
Types of Dsycalculia and Maths Anxiety
There are many forms of dyscalculia including Acalculia (difficulty performing simple mathematical tasks) and Pseudo Dyscalculia (a belief they cannot succeed in maths). Many pupils also suffer from maths anxiety which causes them to lose confidence.
Overcoming maths anxiety can be tough but these techniques are important to bear in mind:
- Foster the idea that mistakes are good
- Don’t emphasise speed in maths
- Spend time developing number sense at an early age
- Use concrete manipulatives in a way that develops understanding
- Incorporate revision into your lessons and encourage learners to practise what they have learnt
IDL Numeracy, our maths software resource, has been developed to help teach those with dyscalculia along with low-attaining learners in mathematics. Since its launch in September 2018, we are happy to announce that over 2,350 schools are now enjoying the benefits of the programme.
Each lesson in IDL is made up of one of the following mathematical principles: Bonds; Counting; Sequencing; Shapes & Patterns; Number Value; Place Value & Arithmetic. With over 2,250 lessons on the programme, the mathematical puzzles are presented in a fun and easy way.
“Our school was privileged to have an early insight into the IDL Numeracy, our students have engaged successfully with its approach and we saw immediate progress being made.” Etz Chaim Boys School
We hope you’ve found this blog useful. If you would like to find out more about how IDL Numeracy can help your students with dyscalculia or maths anxiety, and to request a free trial, please click here. For more information on our Dyscalculia Screener and to request it for your school free of charge, please click here.