25th April 2022 matt mudie

Six dice

Dyscalculia (rhymes with Julia) is a term for people that really struggle with mathematics.

Adults with dyscalculia struggle to tell the time, but also to read train timetables, their bank balance or even their car speedometer. This can be really stressful. Small things that many of us take for granted can cause problems, such judging what time to leave the house before an appointment.

Children with dyscalculia may have difficulties counting backwards, or struggle to use left or right. They can be overly reliant on counting in ones and can be very slow when attempting maths problems. People with dyscalculia often forget maths procedures and formulas very quickly, so they need support to remember them long term (e.g. during end of year exams). These difficulties often lead (very reasonably) to children and adults avoiding maths tasks for fear of getting it wrong.

People with dyscalculia have a problems with mathematics that are not related to their education or upbringing. Dyscalculia is a learning difficulty similar to dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD/ADD, and persons can often have more than one of these conditions. It is often characterised by a person being well below the mathematical ability expected for their age group.

All of our brains are different, and with this neurodiversity we see that some people are very able in one area but less so in another. For example a learning difficulty like dyscalculia can mean that a person with a PHD in literature cannot score higher than a F in GCSE mathematics.

One of the higher estimates that I’ve read is that 5-7% of our population have dyscalculia, that’s up to 4 million people in the UK. Because of this I question the logic of expecting everybody to pass mathematics GCSE; it is often a requirement when applying for a new job.

As a maths tutor I hope to do more to support my students, many of whom have undiagnosed dyscalculia. I can use more multisensory tools to give a hands-on approach to teaching. Using pictures to represent numbers can very useful, so parents at home can play games with dice and dominoes to support students.

We all have difficulties in some areas, but from working alongside children with learning difficulties such as dyscalculia and dyslexia, teachers have learnt that repetitive learning can really help. Sometimes called ‘over-learning’ at Ipswich Tuition Centre we repeat key ideas week after week to help students with learning difficulties.

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