Dyscalculia – 4 Warning Signs



This is a guest post by Adrian Beckett, London-based maths tutor extraordinaire

That title sounds scary.

Well.. dyscalculia can be a bit scary. Just when you think you’ve remembered that 8 + 8 is 16, a few minutes later it becomes 14. Here are some tell tale signs that your child has dyscalculia.

Finger counting

If there is an over reliance on ?nger counting for more than basic sums such as 5 + 3 , there’s a chance your child may have Dyscalculia. This means they don’t know the number components of numbers up to 10. The number 5 has the following components: 0 and 5, 1 and 4, 2 and 3, 3 and 2, 4 and 1. 5 and 0. There is no hard and fast rule though with ?nger counting. Some children, whilst being very capable at Maths, still use their ?ngers and de?nitely do not have dyscalculia. If your child struggles with all areas of maths, then that’s a better indicator. I’d recommend this book The Dyscalculia Toolkit – Supporting Dif?culities

Available at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

Hearing dif?culties

Has your child at some point in their life had problems hearing. Glue ear maybe? A couple of my students have and this seems to have interfered with their Mathematical learning at some stage. This probably seems obvious, but if they currently have a hearing dif?culty make sure you accommodate the learning accordingly: Sitting close to them or writing sums down can be helpful.

Asking to repeat things

This seems characteristic of my dyscalculia students. Even when we are talking about non-Mathematical subjects I get asked to repeat what I’m saying. Try to get as much Maths down on paper as possible. This can make a big difference. Children with dyscalculia have shorter working memories. As an example, to work out 8 + 7, you might do 7 + 7 = 14 and then add 1. A dyscalculia student might forget the intermediary stage 7 + 7 = 14, so it would be useful if it’s written down. Over time, you would move towards not writing it down. You build up to this nice and gradually.

Problems telling the time is a sign of dyscalculia

Problems telling the time

Most children by the age of 9 can read the time – Dyscalculia students can’t. A useful technique is to treat telling the time less as a Mathematical exercise and more as a language exercise. Focus on the main phrases ?rst (half past, quarter past, quarter to) and then worry about everything in between You know sometimes these things can indicate dyscalculia. (Note form Caroline-Maths Insider: This post on Reddit: I suffer from Mild Dyscalculia highlights some of the problems mentioned in this post (warning – does contain some rather strong language))

They can also indicate other things: a disinterest in the subject material, a lack of engagement with the nature of the child (perhaps they are musical or like to act), a distrust of the teacher, anxiety in the parent/teacher and more…. The challenge when teaching children and particularly relevant to dyscalculia students is to engage their spirit. I’ll give you an example:

A beautiful example

A few weeks back, I think V (aged 9) was a bit bored with me banging on about the near doubles so she decided we should do it with mime. Interesting – because she did once have hearing problems. I thought gosh this is an amazing opportunity to enter into what would have been her world. It was incredibly challenging to do a whole lesson using mime and not talking but I loved it. So did she and she learnt her near doubles. Once you’ve cracked that, the rest becomes easier.

Take it nice and slowly. Don’t be surprised if it takes a very long time to learn material. You’ll get there in the end.

Adrian Beckett and his band of London Maths Tutors offer maths tuition for students and workshops for maths teachers. They also blog about maths learning, those all important maths exams and dyscalculia atwww.adrianbeckett.co.uk/blog

Top Maths Insider Posts 2012 (and how may I help you in 2013)


Hope you’re having an amazing start to 2013! If helping your child develop a love of math is high on your list of things to get done this year, then I’d love to help you achieve this through my posts here on Maths Insider. What topics would you like to see covered in the year ahead? To give you some ideas, here are the Top 10 posts that Maths Insider readers flocked to in 2012:

Top 10 Maths Insider posts of 2012

1) 8 Things to Hate about Kumon – A Review 48,724 views

Still at the top of the list since I wrote this post back in 2010! Kumon is the largest after school math profgram in the world and therefore it’s no surprise that parents are either looking for some feedback on the program before they enrol their child, or wondering if it’s worth continuing once their child has been on the program for a while. As a ex Kumon instructor I shed some light on the negative (and some of the positive!) aspects of Kumon.

2) 10 Seriously Cool Careers That Need Maths – 26,139 views

One of my personal favorites and great to see that Maths Insider readers are as excited about how math can lead to some seriously cool careers. Also check out the link in that post to the free “share to get” full color booklet 21 Seriously Cool Careers That Need Math for some seriously cool math inspiration.

3) About Kumon – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – 23,730 views

More Kumon revelations. This time I start with the good points about Kumon (2 of my own kids were on the program for several years – it ain’t all bad!) but then also highlight some of the important aspects that can cause problems (I’ve even had an instructor email me privately to say that they agree with both the positives and negatives) For those of you whose children are doing the Kumon math program, do you agree with me?

4) 16 Cool iPad Math Apps (That Your Child Might Actually Love!) – 11,564 views

It’s hard to believe that the iPad is less then 3 years old! With thousands of Math apps of varying qualities on the App store, this post highlight my pick of the best. Don’t forget to check out my post about my very favorite math app Dragon Box.

5) 24 Short and Sweet Preschool Maths Activities. – 11,229 views

I’m a big fan of anything that makes math fun, especially for younger kids. I’m not one to send time making resources, but will happily spend a few minutes making and cutting up numbers cards for a quick game of hide the numbers or log on to a kids website for some math videos and games. You’ll find some other nice and simple activities in this post.

6) The Ultimate Kumon Review – 9,603 views

My first published book on Amazon (in a recent Amazon recommends email, they even suggested I may be interested in buying my own book!) In The Ultimate Kumon Review I spill the beans on what kind of families I think the Kumon program works for and which families it doesn’t (yes it’s not just do do with the child) The questionnaire at the end of the book will help parents decide if the Kumon program is right for their child.

7) No! No! No! No! Don’t Let your Child Finger Count! – 8,500 views

A controversial post again written in 2010, but still popular as ever with parents who are anxious about their child’s finger counting. I’m actually not so militant about this topic these days but there’s no getting away from the fact that whether it’s used as a crutch or because a child really can’t work out the answer, finger-counting is something that can be replaced  by other strategies.

8) Who else wants their child to be lightening fast at mental maths? – Introduction – 6,655 views

 Ironically, this post is based on the idea of slow increments and mastery which are the foundations of the Kumon program. Find out how to build your own mental arithmetic routine with your child in this post and the 2 videos linked to in the post.

9) 13 Cool, Beautiful and Inspirational Math Quotes – 5,961 views

More math inspiration! I fired up Powerpoint on my laptop and with limited artistic skills took some cool math quotes and some cool fonts and backgrounds and produced this math-eye-candy post. Which is your favorite quote?

10) Have You Seen These 8 High Quality, Free Maths Websites? – 5,504 views

Everyone loves a bargain, even when it comes to math resources. You definitely get what you pay for when it comes to high quality online math programs, but the websites in this post offer some great free options.

Tell me what you think!

So tell me, which are your favorite posts on Maths Insider? What can I help you with in 2013? Tell me in the comments below, hit the Contact buton at the top of the page or if  you’re a subscriber reading this in your inbox, don’t be shy, hit reply and tell me how I can help your child love math in 2013!

7 Unconventional Ways to Support Your Arithmetic Phobic Child

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This is a guest post by Adrian Beckett, London-based maths tutor extraordinaire

I’m Adrian Beckett.  I specialise in Maths tuition to primary age children; preparing children for exams and supporting children with special needs in particular Dyscalculia.  I also help find families a Maths tutor in the London (U.K) area

In this blog post, I’ll be discussing Dyscalculia (a specific learning disability involving innate difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic. It is akin to dyslexia and includes difficulty in understanding numbers, learning how to manipulate numbers, learning maths facts, and a number of other related symptoms: Wikipedia) and what we can do as tutors/home educators/parents to support young children with difficulties with number and helping children more generally with their Mathematical learning.

Last night, I was honored to speak to Lawrence Ball.  Lawrence is an inspirational man with almost 40 years experience of tutoring Maths one-to-one.  I’ve reflected on our chat and my experience of tutoring to offer these 7 insightful ways to support children with Dyscalculia


1. Tell Jokes

Maths is a serious business.  Having a laugh can help Dyscalculic students loosen up and take themselves and their learning less seriously.


2. Don’t rely on feedback

Students tend to tell us fibs about their understanding.  Keen to please us they say they understand, when they don’t.  Lawrence uses impersonation to demonstrate to students what it looks like to him when they say they understand when really they don’t.  He finds this promotes honest feedback


3. Maintain a high level of engagement

We often consider how engaged our students are, and forget to be fully engaged ourselves as tutors.  Trying, where possible, to engage ourselves is important too.


4. Rating 1 to 5

Self and peer assessment are buzz words in schools these days.  Lawrence encourages students to do this too.  Your student’s rating on how they are feeling can help them to engage more in their learning.


5. Be Silly

Sillyness is a healthy way of saying, “yes, we are going to learn Maths” but we don’t need to be stuffy and formal about it.  Laughter, songs, stories, anecdotes can promote an air of sillynesss.

 6. Love Bombing

I read an article in the Guardian about the technique of love bombing .  The idea is that children are bombed with love for a day by their parents.  They get to choose what they do and are in complete control of the agenda.  What his experiment has shown is that instead of going out of control, instead they show restraint.  The freedom actually results in children exerting self-control.  A 5 minute burst of love in maths tutorials could help.


7. Chat

With dyscalculic students, activities sometimes involve intense bursts of concentration.  Sometimes, stopping what you are doing and having a chat can be way of relaxing before starting a new activity.  It’s a bit like love bombing too, where the student becomes the focus for a bit.

17 Math Links to Get Your Child’s School Year Off to a Flying Start

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You’ve bought the school equipment, packed the lunch boxes and have said or are about to say goodbye to your child as they start back to school after the summer break. However it’s likely that your child has lost at least some of the math gains they made over the previous year (a Duke University study found that some students lose up to 3 months of learning!) Have no fear, follow the steps below and check out the following links to get your child back on the math track.

Polish mental arithmetic skills

Math lessons will always go smoother if your child has the basics sorted. Confidence in core skills, like addition, subtraction and the times tables will help them in the other areas of math and science. Find why mental math skills are so important (and why some disagree) in No No No Don’t Let Your Child Finger Count. Build your own mental math program using the advice in the short Who Wants Their Child to be Lightening Fast at Mental Maths video series. Finally break through the times tables with your child, whatever their learning style using Maths Insider’s very own tried and tested 31 Days to Faster Times Tables program

Check out additional tutoring

Whether your child is struggling with math or you want to stretch their skills, you could join the mass of parents who supplement their children’s school math (60% of Palo Alto, California parents supplement their child’s math). My own kids use online math programs Math-Whizz (US, UK and India 5-12 years old) and Conquer Maths (UK 4 – 17 yrs old) but you can see which other online programs get the Maths Insider seal of approval in the Maths Insider Online Math Programs Awards

When it comes to offline learning, math tuition centres around the world are bursting at the seams. If you’ve been tempted by adverts for Kumon, the biggest name in center based math tuition, then the truly insider information in The Ultimate Kumon Review will help you decide if Kumon or other copycat tuition centers will work for your child.

If you suspect that individual private tuition might work best for your child, especially as a short term solution to a specific math issue then check out how to choose the best in Math Tutor. A low cost option is to tutor your child yourself. Find out how in the free eBook Yes! You Can Be Your Child’s Math Tutor

Bring math into your everyday life

As well as daily math lessons at school, highlight the math that surrounds your child in  their everyday life. My kids and I had some fun speculating about the math of our Neighbours Lamborghini and Bon Crowder’s membership program That’s Math will have your child pondering the math behind shampoo bottles, bathroom tiles and lots more math around the home. The Back to School Super Math Giveaway from Bon and I also has some great free resources to help you kick start your child’s school year. Nice short activities and math talking points can be found in the daily posts from Bedtime Math and little ones will have fun with any of the 24 Short and Sweet Math Activities for Preschoolers


Make math cool!

Do your kids know just how cool math is? 21 Seriously Cool Careers That Need Maths will show them cool career options open to those who enjoy mathand Math for Grownups has interviews with regular people who use math in their jobs. Teens and preteens will get a kick from the short but entertaining video presentations in Ted Talks to Get Your Teen Excited About Math

Take a look at the 17 links above and soon you and your child will have plenty of actionable tips to make this year a great year for math!



Got a Pre-Teen? Try This Mental Math Bootcamp!


In the UK it’s coming up to SATS time for Year 6 (Grade 5) kids. Mental math word questions are an important part of these tests and being able to work with numbers in real-life situations is an essential life skill .

The cool people at compare4kids.co.uk have created a tough 15 day Mental Math Bootcamp app to get your kids (and your!) mental math skills in tip top shape. Check it out below!

Some useful tips:

  • Your child can change their answer as many times as they want within the time limit for each question
  • They’ll need to press enter/return once they’ve written their answer

Although it’s a 15 day bootcamp, if your child repeats the day until they can get 18/20 (the app let’s you see the correct answers at the end of each test) they’ll truly become a mental math master!

I only got 17/20 first time round! It’s not easy – that pesky timer moves fast (and I was helping my 5 year old with his homework while doing the test – excuses, excuses!)

Grab your pre-teen and get practising!

(If you’re one of my over 1300 subscribers reading this in your email browser, you may have to click here to see the full post with the mental math app)

Created by Compare 4 Kids

For targeted times tables practise check out Maths Insider’s 31 Days to Faster Times Tables

Don’t keep it to yourself! Share this Mental Math Bootcamp with other parents of pre-teens!

World Maths Day 2012 – It’s On!


Great for kids who hate maths, kids who love maths and all those in between, World Maths Day 2012  is on Wednesday 7th March.

If you’ve got kids aged from 4 to 18 years old, head on over to the World Maths Day website and get them signed up for free! Practice races are taking place right now! These fast paced 1 minute arithmetic races are almost guaranteed to get your child excited about maths!

In each race your child will compete against up to 3 other children of their own age  and ability from different countries around the world. There’s even free World Maths Day iPad and Android apps for maths racing on the go.

Around 5.5 million students are estimated to be taking part this year! Find out more details on the World Maths Day site or (read the post I wrote last year World Maths Day – A Step-by-Step Guide.)

Finally, the video below (from last year) is a quick 5 minute tour of  World Maths Day, showing you how to  get started (including how to sign up for the seriously challenging parent fun!)

Register for World Math/Spelling/Science Days at http://www.worldeducationgames.com/

Does your child like taking part in World Maths Day? Did you win any parent’s races?

Does Your Teen Know Their Times Tables?


I’m taking a 1 month break from posting new posts here on Maths Insider while I work on other projects. In the next few weeks I’ll be highlighting some posts I’ve written here and on other websites that you may have missed. Enjoy!

I wrote the following guest post for the cool maths blogger Bon Crowder over at Math is Not a Four Letter Word. When I ran a Kumon centre I would often enrol teens who had weak mental maths skills, which were causing them to struggle with maths. Fixing this problem enough to give them the confidence and skills to improve their maths took around 6 months, but if the goal is to only to sort out their times tables, then this can be done in much less time. Read on to find out how!

Does your middle- or high-schooler know their times tables? If the answer is a resounding “Yes” then, great, have a great day, and read the other great tips here at MathFour.

I also have some great tips and advice on how to guide your child to maths success on my Maths Insider site.

If not, then it’s time to help your teen develop their own times tables boot camp……… Read more …….

Making Maths in the Kitchen


I’m taking a 1 month break from posting new posts here on Maths Insider while I work on other projects. In the next few weeks I’ll be highlighting some posts I’ve written here and on other websites that you may have missed. Enjoy!

I wrote a guest post Maths With Kids in the Kitchen, for Maths Insider reader, Shirley Peries who runs a blog about making fun and nutritious food for the whole family called Enriching Your Kid. Check it out:

Carribean Fry Bakes (Maths with Kids in the Kitchen) 
Math is one of those school subjects that gets a bad rap. Kids find it boring, parents find it difficult to help out and teachers don’t have time to make sure their students are solid in their basic maths skills. One of the best ways to overcome this is to “play” with math. Baking is a great way to practice basic math skills with kids. In one cooking session your kids can play with:

  • counting
  • dividing
  • measuring
  • reading scales
  • fractions
  • ratios
Follow along while I bake and “play math” with my 2 and 4 year old.…Read more…

Yes it does make the preparation time twice as long and the mess – oh the mess, but kids love being all “grown-up” and helping in the kitchen and it’s a great time to highlight some maths. Just a few days ago we made a tasty Lemon Zucchini cake and my 5 year old insisted on knowing about the “half” measurements on the measuring jug. Give it a go and see what maths you can find in your kitchen!

Everyday Maths Lessons from my Neighbour’s Lamborghini


My neighbour has a Lamborghini.

I’m not a huge car fan or anything, but my neighbour’s car is definitely something to be admired.

It’s glossy white

with a spotless black interior (not a biscuit crumb to be seen!)

and the gleaming silver engine sits silently behind smudge free glass until my neighbour starts the car and our house shakes.

Everyday maths lesson 1 – Currency conversion

So the kids wondered how much it cost.

My daughter guessed 1 million riyals (if you’ve read my About page you’ll know we’re expats in the Middle East) so we asked good old Google who gave us the price in dollars. She wasn’t far off it was  $248,000 (930,000 riyals)!

If your  neighbour doesn’t have a Lamborghini, you can try guessing how much a Big Mac meal or a cinema ticket costs in different countries.

Everyday maths lesson 2 – Speed conversion

We then wondered what the top speed of the car was.

I was sure that it wasn’t more than 150 miles per hour, but google confirmed that the beautiful, shiny engine was capable of a top speed of 337 km/h (209 mph).

If irresponsible driving speeds are not your thing, then compare the top speeds of different animals or spacecraft. The Guinness Book of World Records has some cool statistics related to speed.

Everyday maths lesson 3 – Financial Budgeting

Finally we wondered how much we’d have had to save each day to buy one if we started saving 20 years ago

The answer was around $34 a day or $1000 a month. This is without taking into account interest rates and inflation.

Makes me feel a bit better that we actually spent our money on food, clothes, books and children.

Financial budgeting is an everyday maths skill worth working on, not only to work out whether or not that Lamborghini is affordable, but to make sure your children are able to make wise financial decisions when they grow up.

Here are 4 tips to help you and your child enjoy everyday maths:

  • Make the maths as easy or as difficult as you want, round off numbers, grab a calculator, simplify the problem.
  • Relate it to something that your child is actually interested in (For more ideas see the post Keeping it Real! Mental Maths Questions Your Teen Will Actually Want to Answer)
  • Don’t always focus on getting the numbers right – the art of working through a problem is still maths (check out Maths Problem Solving Tip)
  • Make everyday maths as important as reading to your child daily. Bon at MathFour has launched a cool campaign Count 10 Read 10 to encourage parents to integrate 10 minutes of maths into their child’s bedtime routine.

Do you think daily maths is as important as daily reading? What everyday maths have you done with your child? Tell me in the comments below!

The DIY Guide to Faster Times Tables – Grab Your Free Training Video


It’s been a month since I unleashed the 31 Days to Faster Times Tables program. Sales are going well and I’ve received some great feedback from customers as to how they and their children are enjoying the program.

What I also know is that there are some of you out there ,who like to take the tips and advice you read here on Maths Insider and take direct action, without needing to buy a program.

So I’ve produced a FREE video that explains exactly how you can guide your child to faster times tables in just one month.

It includes advice on the best age to start, the best resources to use for your child’s learning style and where to find resources. In fact everything that the DIY maths parent needs to fix those times tables issues.

So if times tables are an issue for your child head on over to www.fastertimestables.com/free-video-report and I’ll see you on the other side!