Dyscalculia is a learning difficulty involving the most basic aspect of arithmetical skills.

“Dyscalculia is a learning difficulty involving the most basic aspect of arithmetical skills. The difficulty lies in the reception, comprehension, or production of quantitative and spatial information. Students with dyscalculia may have difficulty in understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers and have problems learning number facts and procedures. These can relate to basic concepts such as telling the time, calculating prices, handing change.” (SASC)

The word dyscalculia is made up of ‘dys’ = difficulty and ‘calculus’ = counting, which means that dyscalculia refers to a difficulty with arithmetic. About 5% of the population may suffer from dyslexia. It can often co-occur with other developmental difficulties such as dyslexia and ADHD.

The earlier a child is assessed, the sooner they can obtain the correct instruction and strategies to succeed in school, so it’s vital to be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of dyscalculia. Individuals with dyscalculia may find it difficult to copy numbers down in the right order, or may dial a familiar phone number, not understand fractions or percentage, or understand + and – or remember the names for them. Dyscalculic individuals often find adding up and taking away difficult, that they can’t subtract large numbers, and don’t understand ‘odd’ and ‘even’ numbers.


Typical symptoms of dyscalculia are:-

  • Inability to estimate
  • Cannot see patterns in numbers, e.g. 10, 20, 30, then 19, 29, 39 etc
  • Does not understand place value
  • Has difficulty when counting backwards
  • Has a poor sense of number and estimation
  • Has difficulty in remembering ‘basic’ facts, despite many hours of practice/rote learning
  • Has no strategies to compensate for lack of recall, other than to use counting
  • Has difficulty in understanding place value and the role of the zero
  • Has no sense of whether any answers that are obtained are right or nearly right
  • Tends to be slower to perform calculations
  • Forgets mathematical procedures, especially as they become more complex, for example, long division
  • Addition is often the default operation
  • Avoids tasks that are perceived as difficult and likely to result in a wrong answer
  • Weak mental arithmetic skills
  • High levels of maths anxiety
  • Inability to subitise


Often people think about difficulties in maths in terms of learning in the classroom; however, for an individual with dyscalculia the ramifications of this extend over many areas involved in daily living, for example, budgeting, money, understanding weights and measures, time keeping and organisation. This can have a profound effect on job opportunities and retention.


How a Dyscalculia Assessment Helps

The full diagnostic report enables parents to make sure that the destination key stage or institution is adequately prepared to recognise and meet the child’s additional or special educational needs. It will also make recommendations for access arrangements at Key Stage 3 and 4.

It can help teachers and parents understand the progress and achievement, and what is appropriate to expect from the individual.


Dyscalculia Assessment

Having a private assessment report ensures that your child is assessed quickly, which means they will get the specialist help, teaching and support they require sooner.

It often comes as a huge relief to both the parents and the child when they find out that they’re dyscalculic. This means that both can begin to understand how they learn best. The journey begins with the step of having a diagnostic report.


The how and why of assessment

The only people who can diagnose dyscalculia are Educational Psychologists and Specialist Teachers, with additional qualifications and, preferably, a Practising Certificate from an appropriate body. It’s crucial to intervene early. When children do not understand the nature of their difficulty, they tend to blame themselves. They often end up feeling ‘stupid’, and may become stressed, anxious and even depressed. Getting a diagnosis helps them understand why they are struggling, that it is not their fault and that they can be helped. With the right support, strategies and adjustments, dyscalculic people can do well at school and university and have successful and satisfying careers. Having a diagnostic label is a positive thing. It helps define the problems children face and allows for greater understanding – and it means that parents can acquire knowledge, seek help and take the necessary action to improve the situation.

Remember that a child with dyscalculia is likely to be much more successful in other curriculum areas. However, they won’t ‘catch up’ in maths without a structured, repetitive, sequential, cumulative teaching intervention that targets their specific needs. Active multisensory learning is more effective than listening. Use of concrete materials that they can see and touch will be far more effective than working in the abstract. And, of course, it will be important to start where the child is secure and move on in small steps

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We were very grateful.

"Sarah-Louise assessed my daughter for dyscalculia and her very thorough report formed part of the application for her EHCP. It enabled us to give a fuller picture of what our child’s challenges are. Her assessment revealed things that we weren’t aware of. There was no one else we knew of who was able to do this assessment for us so we were very grateful."

Louise (Hampshire)