Does my child have dyscalculia?

Does by child need dyscalculia support?

What is dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia is described as a “condition that makes it difficult to acquire mathematical skills. Pupils may have difficulty understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers and have problems learning number facts and procedures.”  The Department for Education. Many children need dyscalculia support.

It is sometimes explained as dyslexia for numbers and it is thought that between 3% and 6% of the population may suffer from it. But unlike dyslexia little is known about it and diagnosis, research and support tools are not anywhere near as advanced as they are for dyslexia. 

One student sums up what it is like to have this learning difficulty. 

“Dyscalculia has been my greatest struggle all throughout my life. It means I have a really hard time reading analogue clocks, lining up numbers in my head, doing any type of math beyond basic algebra, and even managing finances. It is a very real disability.”(

The British Dyslexia Association lists the symptoms of dyscalculia as follows:

  • Counting: Dyscalculic children can usually learn the sequence of counting words, but may have difficulty navigating back and forth, especially in twos and threes.
  • Calculations: 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, therefore, 3+5=8 or that 5+4=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.
  • Measures: 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.
  • Direction/orientation: Dyscalculic children may have difficulty understanding spatial orientation (including left and right) causing difficulties in following directions or with map reading.

I think my child may have dyscalculia. What should I do?

Your first step should always be to discuss your worries with the Special Needs coordinator at your child’s school. Like dyslexia, dyscalculia is a special need and has to be diagnosed by a fully qualified educational psychologist in order for a school to recognise your child as formally dyscalculic.

Some parents choose to have their child assessed privately. However this can cost hundreds of pounds and your child’s school does not have to recognise the results.

Like dyslexia, a multi-sensory approach is best for children with dyscalculia. Children need to go back to the basics of maths to try to grasp the concept of numbers and how they relate to one another. Counting and sequencing using concrete materials such as cubes, counters, abacuses, tens and units blocks, number lines etc should all be used to try to build up a picture of numbers. Basic concepts should be over learned and activities should be related to real life scenarios to try to give maths a purpose.

Research and support for dyscalculia has a long way to go before it can provide the level of support that is available to dyslexics. Below is a list of websites and resources that provide support for parents and educators.

The Dyscalculia and Dyslexia Interest Group

British Dyslexia Association Technology

The Dyscalculia Centre

How can On Target Tuition help?

On Target Tuition in Lisburn can provide support for children experiencing difficulty with numbers.  We work with your child to find out the best way for them to learn and use a multi sensory approach to make sure we can address every need.  Our learning centre is fully equipped with many different concrete materials, to make learning the basics of maths easier for children who struggle in a more traditional classroom setting.  The individual attention your child will receive is aimed at building confidence and making learning a fun and relaxed experience.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *