working with numbers.
What is dyscalculia?
Dyscalculia is a specific learning difficulty in understanding and working with numbers. Dyscalculia comes from the Greek ‘dys’ meaning bad and the Latin ‘calculare’ meaning to calculate.
One of the current definitions of dyscalculia is:
Many people who have dyscalculia also have another learning difficulty such as dyslexia and/or dyspraxia. Unfortunately knowledge and awareness of dyscalculia is still far behind that of dyslexia. You may even find that your child’s teacher has never heard of it. But, the good news is that for children with dyscalculia, even though they may have a harder time learning maths, it is possible.
How can it affect me?
Dyscalculia can affect many aspects of daily life. Basic maths skills and concepts are all around us, not only in the classroom. It is important to realise that people experience dyscalculia in different ways and therefore the areas that they struggle with can vary from one person to the next.
What are the most common signs of dyscalculia?
Are maths anxiety and dyscalculia the same?
Maths anxiety is not dyscalculia. However, the majority of people who have dyscalculia will also have maths anxiety as they fear maths. Often if someone suffers from maths anxiety, it can appear that they have dyscalculia as many of the outward signs are very similar. For both people with dyscalculia and those with maths anxiety, it is important to address the maths anxiety and understand how the anxiety can impact the ability to do maths.
How can a tutor help my child with dyscalculia?
Identify specific aspects of maths that need to be addressed
A dyscalculia specialist tutor will use diagnostic reports (from specialists) alongside informal assessments to identify the areas of maths that a student needs to consolidate. For students with extremely poor number sense, this will initially be looking at the numbers 1 to 10 and composing and decomposing (splitting up) the numbers. Learning dot patterns (arrangements of numbers to help with visualisation) and number bonds facts to 10 and 20.
Use of manipulatives
One of the main areas that dyscalculic people struggle with is poor number sense. For this reason, providing lots of different opportunities to explore the nature of numbers, compare the sizes of numbers, see how different numbers relate to each other, is vital. One particularly effective way to do this is to use manipulatives (physical equipment).
Research has shown that practising it is more effective to learn number facts, etc through playing games rather than by doing many calculations on a worksheet. This is because, while a person is playing a game, they are focusing on having fun rather than worrying about the maths. It is only when the brain is feeling safe that learning can start to take place.
Making connections clear
People with dyscalculia struggle to make connections between the different areas of maths. Therefore, they are trying to learn all these separate facts and it is just too much. However, when the connections between the areas are clearly highlighted and explored in different ways, this makes it much easier. Furthermore, rather than relying on memory for learning times tables, by understanding what a times table is and how the different parts are related to each other, dyscalculics are able to work out their facts rather than relying on rote memory.