How can I recognise dyscalculia?

What is Dyscalculia?

pexels-photo-311269.jpegDyscalculia is a specific learning difficulty (SpLD) where a child has a significant difficulty in understanding mathematical concepts and comprehension of numbers.

This difficulty continues regardless of regular intervention, opportunity and intelligence. Those with Dyscalculia often feel that math is impossible to understand and that it is incomprehensible.

Although there is no single cause or reason for Dyscalculia, it is very likely that those with Dyscalculia may lack an innate ability to comprehend numbers and most mathematic methods. Most people (even babies) have been shown to have an innate ability to understand numbers and arithmetic on some level (Butterworth, 1999).

Symptoms and warning signs

Dyscalculia can present in some very different way, no two people with the condition present with exactly the same indicators! Here are some of the most common symptoms and warning signs that someone may experience Dyscalculia:

  • Uses fingers to do addition and subtraction
  • Unable to tell which number is bigger or smaller
  • Struggling to count; both reciting the number words in the correct order and counting objects
  • Struggle to read mathematical equations or numbers.
  • Struggle with number magnitudes (ordering numbers by size)
  • Unable to understand the meanings of operation symbols (+, -, x, ÷, =)
  • Difficulty memorising number facts
  • Struggle to comprehend principles, concepts and laws of arithmetic (for example, addition and subtraction)

If you are working with a child with Dyscalculia, be mindful of their difficulties and try to encourage them and make adjustments and accommodations as much as possible.


For dyscalculia and other numeracy related difficulties, there are many interventions and reasonable adjustments that can be made in the classroom and school setting. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Very clear, short and simple instructions
  • Visual representation of mathematical concepts (such as number lines)
  • Reminders (visual or otherwise) of mathematical formulae and how to work them out
  • Spend ten minutes practising mental math skills
  • Use flash cards or other visual aides
  • Using consistent praise and encouragement for all attempts at maths
  • Multi-sensory approaches and interventions for maths support (using toys, sounds, etc.).
  • Using drawings and sketching to work out maths problems.
  • Allow extra time and the use of a calculator when it is possible

References and Further Reading

Butterworth, B (1999) The Mathematical Brain. London: Macmillan

National Numeracy Strategy (2001) Guidance to support pupils with dyslexia and dyscalculia.. DfES 0512/2001


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