Dyscalculia is a specific learning difficulty in mathematics. People with dyscalculia have difficulties in solving operations in mathematics or arithmetic. It could be described as an extreme difficulty with numbers.
The DfES defines dyscalculia as: ‘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.'
Dyscalculia is like dyslexia for numbers. But unlike dyslexia, very little is known about its prevalence, causes or treatment. Current thinking suggests that it is a congenital condition, caused by the abnormal functioning of a specific area of the brain. People with dyscalculia experience great difficulty with the most basic aspects of numbers and arithmetic.
Dyscalculic children can usually learn the sequence of counting words, but may have difficulty navigating back and forth, especially in twos and threes.
Dyscalculic children find learning and recalling number facts difficult. They often lack confidence even when they produce the correct answer. They also fail to use rules and procedures to build on known facts. For example, they may know that 5+3=8 but not realise that 3+5=8 or that 5+4 would equal 9.
Numbers with zeros:
Dyscalculic children may find it difficult to grasp that the words ten, hundred and thousand have the same relationship to each other as the numerals 10, 100 and 1000.
Dyscalculic children often have difficulty with operations such as handling money or telling the time. They may also have problems with concepts such as speed (miles per hour) or temperature.
Dyscalculic children may have difficulty understanding spatial orientation (including left and right) causing difficulties in following directions or with map reading.
Dyscalculic children may be particularly vulnerable where teachers follow an interactive, whole-class method of teaching as recommended by the National Numeracy Strategy. Asking dyscalculic children to answer apparently simple maths questions in public will inevitably lead to embarrassment and frustration.
Top Tips for Parents and Teachers
Maths should be fun! In fact maths is fun...it's just playing with numbers.
- If it's difficult and lacks excitement our brains will switch right off.
- Let it be O.K to make mistakes in the classroom or at home - fear of failing can sometimes mean a fear of even trying.
- Practise makes perfect - not all learners will understand concepts straight away, give them time to practise their new skills.
- Play lots of games, play and explore - the children won't even think they are working!
- Use ICT resources , there is a website for every mathematical concept - they are also exciting too.
- Use practical resources to teach and support - being able to see or do can help the brain make links.
- Step by step learning - ensure the basics of number are firm and then build on these.
- Differentiate accordingly - allow all ability groups to succeed and celebrate their work with others.
- Make it real - Maths can be found in everyday life - give your tasks a real life purpose.
- Sing songs - rap - make silly rhymes - all will help your child remember key concepts.