Dyscalculia - what's that, then?


I was going to do a sort of plenary post. A "what have we learned and where does it fit in to our world view" type post.

Except I've (re)discovered an interesting idea that I want to pontificate upon. Dyscalculia.

as the website says...

"Because definitions and diagnoses of dyscalculia are in their infancy and sometimes contradictory, it is difficult to suggest a prevalence, but research suggests it is around 5%."

and this site backs this up

"There is no one test or set of criteria for diagnosing dyscalculia."

and they are not alone, as this site states

"The latest studies estimate over 5% of the population has dyscalculia, equating to more than 3 million UK citizens"

lit trans: no-one has a clue what it is, if it even is, so let's pick a number out of thin air. and suggest that you likely have at least one in your class.

or as it says again

Recent research has identified the heterogeneous nature of mathematical learning difficulties and dyscalculia, hence it is difficult to identify via a single diagnostic test

Lit trans: it's basically a special kind of  "not really getting maths" in a way that isn't actually definably different from any other form of "not getting maths"

Or as this site helpfully says on the causes

Genes and heredity: Studies of dyscalculia show it’s more common in some families. Researchers have found that a child with dyscalculia often has a parent or sibling with similar math issues. So dyscalculia may be genetic.

I am impressed that the researchers have managed to conduct these studies in to something that has yet to even be effectively defined. The leap from "some siblings share the tendencies" to "it's genetic" is quite spectacular. And quite possibly wrong. Social factors anyone?

But diagnosis is at hand, even if the test is not recognised or verified or has any educational/medical/psychological/scientific merit

For those who continue with the view that it would be helpful to have an insight into whether an individual is dyscalculic, without going to all the trouble of seeking out an educational psychologist, my colleagues have published a simple Quick Test which gives an approximate answer. It is not normed and no official body will take much notice of it, but as a rough and ready guide it can help.

I (honestly) don't want to deny the whole condition and pretend that there aren't people who find maths hard. I know there are plenty of children out there who struggle with some early maths concepts. I can see amongst the children I teach how that has an ever increasing impact on learners as they work their way through a system which assumes a certain understanding that is built upon. And I get that without intervention children are going to become increasing frustrated with their maths ability.

But a super special condition that elevates the dyscalculiac child above the ordinary jetsam and flotsam of children who just find maths quite tricky?

I don't know.


Author Profile

Kyra Tweddle

Kyra Tweddle

Trained in England, teaching in Scotland. Currently working at upper primary.

63 stories


Jill Turner Jill Turner @sheep2763 1 year ago
I'm signed up for this- and looking forward to it!
Marion Long Marion Long @marionlong 1 year ago
In my SENCO days I gave individual support to a student with this particular Dys. The students parents had maths degrees but the student had difficulties with the concept of numerical value. In other words, counting was fine if there were concrete objects to count, but the meaning melted away when the concrete objects were removed. One fish and one fish makes two fish - fine. One and one makes two - not fine. The solution was to use matchsticks etc to represent objects and then to represent the matchsticks as a tally system on the board, finally to convert the tally into a number. Eventually we built up an abstract concept of number. The maths department were incredible the student achieved GCSE maths Grade C in the 6th form. Hurrah!!
Kyra Tweddle Kyra Tweddle @w11wun 1 year ago
@jules would love to come but fear geography to be an issue - i'm in Scotland! will there be online resources from the event to access?
Jules Daulby Jules Daulby @jules 1 year ago
@w11wun ah yes that's quite a long way - I'll blog and share PowerPoint if available x
Charlotte Johnson Charlotte Johnson @tutorwho 1 year ago
Thank you for the interesting post and the link :)
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