October 3, 2017
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Everything You Need to Know About Dyscalculia

You may have heard of dyslexia and dyspraxia, but have you heard of dyscalculia? If it’s not something you’re up to speed with, here’s a brief overview of everything you need to know…

What is dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia is a learning difficulty that makes mathematics a very challenging.

It makes it hard for children to make sense of number concepts. Children with dyscalculia will find mental arithmetic and other mathematical tasks are too difficult to complete successfully.

If dyscalculia isn’t diagnosed and accounted for, it can make a child feel very anxious. In fact, it can cause feelings of frustration, embarrassment and low self-esteem.

Who does dyscalculia affect?

Dyscalculia is a learning disorder that affects children of all ages. However, just because a child is struggling with arithmetic doesn’t mean that they’re affected by dyscalculia.

Instead, they might just be performing at the expected ability level for their age, experiencing ‘normal’ challenges with mathematics. Or, they might simply have a knowledge gap in their understanding.

So what are the typical signs of dyscalculia?

The British Dyslexia association has listed typical symptoms for dyscalculia, and are as follows:

Anxiety and avoidance:

  • High levels of mathematics anxiety and an avoidance of maths tasks that are perceived as difficult or likely to result in the wrong answer
  • Weak mental arithmetic skills
  • Difficulty counting backwards
  • Preference for addition, avoiding all other operations or executing them poorly when attempted
  • Slower to perform calculations


  • Difficulty understanding the place value or role of ‘zero’ in the number system
  • No sense of whether or not an answer is right or nearly right
  • A poor sense of the value of numbers and estimation


  • Difficulty remembering basic facts despite lots of hours of practice and rote learning
  • Poor memory of mathematical procedures, especially if complex – long division is often very challenging
  • Unable to compensate for a lack of recall other than to use counting

It’s worth noting that dyscalculia is often diagnosed in children who have already been diagnosed with ADHD.

How should a child be diagnosed with dyscalculia?

It’s difficult to diagnose dyscalculia, and there isn’t a straightforward test for a child to take. Some organisations believe that dyscalculia is as common as dyslexia, which affects approximately 5% of the UK population.

To secure an accurate diagnosis of dyscalculia, children should be assessed in a person-to-person clinical interview, rather than an online test or in an informal setting.

What can be done to help children diagnosed with dyscalculia?

First, schools can devise plans to support children with dyscalculia. One to one instruction can be used to identify the specific areas a child needs extra help with, and educational supplies (such as number lines) and support staff can be put in place to help children with dyscalculia reach their full potential.

There are also things that can be done to help children at home. For instance, a child could ne tasked with sorting household objects, or small items such as buttons. This can be a useful learning aid to learn about number values, division, subtraction and other arithmetic tasks.

Finally, it’s a good idea to play maths related games to help children have fun and feel more at ease with arithmetic. Doing maths outside of the classroom will help to alleviate some of the anxiety and frustration associated with the subject.

Naomi Webb is an experienced freelance writer specializing in a wide range of topics, surrounding primary and secondary school education. She has written for a variety of online publications and is keen to share her knowledge and advice with teachers, parents, and homeschoolers.