Mathematics is an abstract and cumulative subject which means it can be difficult for children to relate to in real life and take time to understand maths concepts. All children learn maths skills at different rates and may struggle in different areas, but understanding usually improves with practice. However, for some children, these difficulties persist even with frequent and consistent practice.
If your child has more significant difficulties with maths than others their age, and is falling behind in class, they may be showing signs of Dyscalculia and may need additional support to reach their full potential.
Dyscalculia is a term used to describe learning difficulties in mathematics. Children with dyscalculia have difficulties processing number-related information, including understanding numbers and maths concepts, remembering number facts and performing mathematical calculations. This is sometimes incorrectly referred to as ‘number dyslexia’ or ‘maths dyslexia’. Dyslexia, however, describes difficulties with reading and spelling.
A formal diagnosis of Dyscalculia is considered a subset of an overall difficulty with mathematics, when considered amongst a range of factors. Some children and young people will also experience difficulties with solving worded problems.
Children and young people with Dyscalculia can display some of the following characteristics:
To get an understanding of your child’s maths skills, in the first instance it’s good to reach out to your child’s teacher/s. If your child’s maths skills are well below what is expected of their age and you notice any of the above signs of Dyscalculia, you made need to seek further assessment.
Before undertaking a formal assessment for Dyscalculia, children should undergo at least six months of intervention with explicit instruction in maths. It’s also important to consult with a GP or paediatrician to rule out any medical issues that may be contributing to your child’s challenges, such as hearing or vision impairments. Once consulting a GP or paediatrician, children and young people having trouble with mathematics may be referred for formal assessment of their difficulties.
A formal assessment to diagnose Dyscalculia and other maths difficulties in children must be conducted by a psychologist. Psychologists perform cognitive and academic testing in all areas of learning and development to identify a child’s strengths and needs. By testing all areas, a psychologist can determine if a child’s maths difficulties are caused by Dyscalculia, provide recommendations for the most appropriate intervention for your child’s specific needs and also rule out other potential causes for your child’s difficulties in mathematics.
Following an assessment, a comprehensive written report will be provided and discussed with you. In some cases, a formal diagnosis of Dyscalculia may be mentioned in the report, while in other cases a diagnosis of a specific learning disorder, with impairment in mathematics, may be mentioned. Both of these terms describe difficulties in understanding numbers, remembering number facts and performing mathematical calculations but it is important to understand the distinction and differences between the two so you can best help to support your child.
There is no cure for Dyscalculia. However, children and young people with Dyscalculia or difficulties with mathematics can benefit from appropriate intervention.
A psychological assessment will help your child’s teacher/s develop a suitable intervention program. An effective intervention should involve direct and explicit instruction with a trained specialist teacher and should provide several opportunities for practice and review.
An intervention program for children with Dyscalculia usually targets the following foundational numeracy skills:
Teachers can also support students with Dyscalculia by making accommodations in the classroom such as:
Tutoring with a specialist educator may also be needed to support your child’s classroom teaching.
For many parents and carers, helping children with maths at home can be daunting because they haven’t taken maths classes in a while and there are new methods of teaching. Thankfully, there are a number of fun and simple activities to support children with Dyscalculia at home.
You can support your child’s mathematics skills by:
Learning Links offers a range of services that can help children showing signs of Dyscalculia.
In our free monthly eNewsletter you’ll receive interesting articles on education and learning, tips for supporting children, our latest service offerings and programs, news, events and volunteer opportunities.