Dyscalculia is a brain-based condition that makes it hard to make sense of numbers and math concepts. It is a severe difficulty in maths when the person has normal to above normal intelligence.
This impacts on their ability to learn the times table, subtraction, comparison of numbers and completing work as they take more time to complete maths task.
If affects about 6% of the population and can co-occur with dyslexia (50%).
People with dyslexia can still struggle with maths especially when there are word problems or if there are demands on their short term memory to remember the steps in calulations.
Signs of dyscalculia
How do you assess for dyscalculia?
Research into dyscalculia is recent so standard assessing for dyscalculia has not be completely established.
Any assessment done needs to consider the person’s intelligence, if other learning difficulties are affecting the maths learning such as dyslexia, ADHD, dyspraxia and also other contributing factors such as anxiety and stress, second language, inconsistent schooling, classroom management etc.
For more information on what is available in Southland please contact Dyslexia Support Southland.
Will my child grow out of dyscalculia?
While it is possible to reduce the effect of the maths difficulties in most cases your child will not grow out of dyscalculia.
What can I do at home to help?
Maths anxiety is a common result of dyscalculia. Speaking with your child’s teacher to make them aware of the learning difficulty means they can use accommodations in the classroom to reduce the learning stress, for example, giving your child more time to complete tasks or give written examples of full maths problems to use as a reference.
Incorporate maths into daily life, for example, making change with money, asking questions such as, there are 5 people for tea and 10 bits of chicken - how many each? Are there more apples than bananas here? Playing card games etc
Software options available for the home
There is free software available for downloading that is specifically for dyscalculia. These include:
- The Number Race, children 4 -8 years
- The Number Catcher, children 5 -10 years but benefits older children and adults.
For more information visit the Understood.org website.
Summary on Maths Anxiety and Dyscalculia from workshop by Sarah Bartley
Attitudes to Maths
Sarah started by showing us a variety of videos and we were asked to discuss what we noticed about attitudes to maths.
The videos portrayed the following were needed to be good at maths:
- A boy
- Exceptional talent
- A nerd
You will commonly hear comments such as “I’m no good at maths”. We have become accustomed to saying and believing it’s okay not to be good at maths. You do not hear people say “I’m no good at reading”.
People with dyscalculia will:
- Have difficulty subitising. This is the ability to instantaneously recognise the number of objects in a small group without the need to count them. They can do this but it will take them longer.
- Struggle with number sense. This is knowing that the number 5 represents a quantity of five, for example, five apples.
It can co-exist with dyslexia. Dyslexia can impact on the ability of maths when there is a reading component, a demand on short term memory, or a demand on the ability to sequence the maths info.
Sarah had completed a study in 2016 on maths anxiety and found the following factors that help to create maths anxiety include:
- parental attitude, if the parent says I hate maths or I’m no good at maths this is reflected in the student.
- Overcrowded curriculum, particularly in high school
- Maths anxiety is passed from adult to child
- Time taken out of maths class for extra support with literacy.
There is usually a trigger event to start maths anxiety and the child will usually be able to vividly remember what it was.
Strategies for at home and school
It’s important for the student to know they can retrain their brain. (This is called Growth Mindset)
- Teach them how knowing 6 x 8 is the same as 8 x 6 (commutativity) to reduce the load of what they have to learn.
- Explicitly teach the language of maths, for example, takeaway and minus both represent this symbol -
- Use concrete (blocks, fruit etc) examples to help them grasp the concepts. Include it in everyday life as much as possible as they need to see it as much as possible.
- Relate it to real life.
Be aware of online maths training programmes as they can be literacy dense, meaning there is a lot of reading and this can be restrictive.
Most importantly: Be positive about your ability to have a go at maths.