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

Adrian Beckett

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

4 thoughts on “Dyscalculia – 4 Warning Signs

  1. I don’t know what to do. I am a non-traditional student taking a geometry class. It is the last class I need to graduate and I am already having trouble. I have most of the symptoms of dyscalculia and I think I would have more but because of my age (48) I have learn to adapt. I am scared to death I won’t pass this class! I make mostly A’s and a few B’s in all of my other classes.

  2. great those warning signs….my daughter have hearing problem…she is 5 years old.. she has problem in telling the time…thanks for your good suggestion to teach my daughter about telling time…

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