Saturday, 15 March 2014

‘Dyscalculia - (revised) The Why’s And How To Spot Some Of The Signs’ by  Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2015

Do you as an adult, or maybe your child, have problems with immediate number recognition?   This article has been penned to give you an idea of what dyscalculia is all about and some helpful tips to improve things along the way.
 Dyscalculia can be described as an innate specific learning disability (in the mind) that prohibits various levels of understanding in mathematics.  It is very similar to dyslexia and, in some cases, children/adults can have both (co-morbidity).

Unlike its close relation, dyslexia; dyscalculia is new to many within the education sector, we are one of very few that work in this subject area.
Maths as we all know is a core subject and therefore has to be studied, but there are ways that it can be improved by becoming number fluent… we suggest and use a very visual/kinaesthetic approach to improving fluency and improving mental imagery, and visualisation is all important. Those of you who share dyslexia and dyscalculia, as I do, will know that we are constantly told we have a great imagination… can you imagine how many football players or snooker players would have never reached the height of their profession without great imagination? It is a great asset and if we can apply this to our studies, we will truly fly! Numbers for many is tiring, unless you are an accountant or extremely rich and spend all your time calculating your wealth
We have great results from many that at one point shook just hearing the word maths, it needs to tuition needs to take into account all the various learning styles.

There are very few centres that work with dyscalculics, if you would like to discuss this further then you can visit our website at

Just to mention… to see other articles and information around Dyscalculia, check out our Facebook forum page -
There are many variants with dyscalculia, which can include a difficulty in understanding numbers, ie. 5 back to front and getting sums reversed (54 x 4 can be read as 45 x 4), learning how to manipulate numbers, learning maths facts and a number of other related symptoms, such as recognising the letters/words side of maths (dyslexia) and even down to reconstruction of the sum onto to your workbook (dysgraphia) and number alignment, which is key to totalling sums correctly.  As with dyslexia, Maths disabilities can also occur as the result of some types of brain injury (apraxia), in which case the proper term is acalculia, to distinguish it from dyscalculia which is of innate, genetic or developmental origin.
Although maths learning difficulties can be genetic, occurring in children with low levels of academia, dyscalculia also affects people from across the whole IQ range (Einstein had dyslexia) and sufferers often, but not always, also have difficulties with telling the time and measuring (eg. cooking).
 Many find counting numbers going forward in a particular pattern straightforward, however they have problems with reversing numbers, especially those that have a sequence involving 2's and 3's.  Very few develop islands… by this I mean number platforms like 5-10-15 or 3-6-9… this alone can improve calculating as many use their fingers and count from the base line of say 1-10-20, so 20 + 8 becomes 21-22-23-24-25-26-27 and finally 28, instead of platform 25 and 26-27-28, much easier and quicker too.

Estimates of the population with dyscalculia range between 3 and 6%.  Around 50% of those with dyslexia have dyscalculia and those who don’t are generally quite good at mathematics.
Dyscalculia can cause problems with the written maths and indeed for those with dyslexia and dyscalculia, algebra can cause particular problems as the calculations and written word become entwined… however, not so with physical maths (eg. counting with fingers or an abacus) as this is visual.  Learning Maths through the visual channel is very important (games, etc.).  Also, I find that some, but not all, children are no longer being taught by rote (ie. memorising through repetition)… children with specific learning needs would benefit from this method also as it creates rhythm and provides another method of learning. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, over learning is so important, ie. a variety of ways of learning a subject and lots of repetition.
Children suffering from visual stress and those with dysgraphia can also have a problem with writing down sums, as they have a problem in forming columns and rows.
Symptoms of dyscalculia could be if you throw down a number of coins or counters in a random fashion the child/adult would have difficulty in arriving at the correct value/number.  They would have a far greater chance of accuracy if they were in rows.  This, in itself, can be a problem if your child goes into a shop to buy something.  If, for example, you ask them to buy milk in the shop and get something for themselves, it’s helpful to give the money for both separately so they know which is which and don’t get confused.  It can also be useful to let them pay the cashier when you’re with them, counting the money out loud, to help them get used to the values of different notes and coins.  As they get more confident, you could get them to calculate the supermarket shopping, adding each item as you put it in the basket either on a calculator or by writing and adding the numbers in their maths copy book (squared).  All these things help to build greater number recognition.
Also, with varied objects, ie. one of each… cow, pig, horse, dog for example… they would then use their visual image side to great effect and gain the correct answer and with increased speed too.
Reading a clock is also difficult, especially analogue as opposed to digital… again, games can speed this up.  Also, going in up in 5’s is good (5, 10, 15 mins) again using platforms and try, for now, to avoid introducing the ‘to the hour’, just use past the hour, ie. 10,20,30,40 mins past, etc. ‘Quarter past/to’ and ‘half past’ can be introduced later on.  Also. time keeping can be a problem – it’s beneficial to use minutes when giving instruction, ie. we’re going out in 10 minutes, it’ll be time for bed in 20 minutes… as they will find this easier to understand.
As with Dyslexia, left and right is a problem - with map reading people often turn the map towards the direction they need to head.
Other symptoms are an inability to process multiple requests, difficulty in multi-tasking. Also, problems with reading music and with visualisation in general.
Many adults with dyscalculia have learnt to adapt their world to allow them use their strengths. Being creative for the most part, many become writers and artists.

Software intended to intervene and improve children and adult’s academic ability is now widely available.
Multi-sensory educational therapy is a very effective way of increasing academic (ability) age up to a person’s chronological age range.
Need resources to support those struggling with maths?... then visit our online store at
 NB. This information is from personal experience and research and also partly sourced through the work of others.  It is purely for improving the understanding of dyslexia and to offer helpful advice.   Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2013

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