Dyscalculia is a specific learning disability affecting a person’s maths ability. It’s estimated that 5-10 percent of school-aged children have this condition, and 25% of students who struggle with maths could be considered dyscalculic. Dyscalculia is identified as difficulty working with maths but not necessarily struggling with other subjects. Of course, all learners struggle with maths at some point. Still, children who have dyscalculia are often confused with numbers and find it difficult to do more than essential addition and subtraction.
People with dyscalculia have persistent problems with maths and tend to have difficulty memorising numerical facts, such as phone numbers or birthdays, because they don’t readily see patterns in information (such as remembering that 1-2-3 is the same as 2-1-3). They may also need help performing simple calculations (such as multiplying 5 x 7) without paper and a pencil in front of them. These limitations mean students may learn maths formulaically rather than understand the problems.
Dyscalculia can be mitigated with practice and support from teachers and parents. However, these issues with maths regularly result in high levels of maths anxiety, so patience and care are required when working through them. Here are five strategies you can use to help your child with dyscalculia succeed at school:
To make learning math more engaging for children, parents should consider playing games with them instead of relying solely on worksheets. Games present maths as a fun challenge to be solved rather than a dull concept to be memorised. If worksheets are used, it can be helpful to highlight actual numbers in the instructions and throughout the problems. Additionally, allowing children to use different coloured pencils while completing worksheets can aid in organising their work.
Parents can help their children with math by encouraging them to speak aloud while working through problems or new concepts. Even if a child struggles with math, they may have strong language skills that could make the process easier. It’s also beneficial for children to learn multiple synonyms for various math terms. For instance, when discussing addition, they can use words like “increase” and “extra.” Additionally, explaining basic terms to your child and letting them express their understanding of each definition in their own words is essential.
One way to teach math beyond using manipulatives is by creating visual models. This can involve moving around large objects in a room or drawing pictures to better explain math problems. Even simple household items like coloured socks or pairs of shoes can be used for addition and subtraction lessons. Additional accommodations include circling keywords in sentences or providing extra paper to solve problems. Speaking with your child’s teacher about potential accommodations at school, such as spare time for tests or access to a math resource room, is essential. A child with dyscalculia may also be allowed to use a calculator for daily math problems.
Playing games like dominoes, Lego, or Monopoly can aid children in comprehending basic math concepts. Instead of counting each individual dot, children should learn to recognise number patterns on dominoes, Lego bricks, or dice. Older students can enhance their skills by playing games that involve money and scoring. Let your child get comfortable with dominoes and dice on their own. Then, introduce them to a game they enjoy and incorporate these objects.
Breaking down math into sections can help with learning, but keeping the end goal in mind is essential. More than memorising facts, like multiplication tables, is required to truly understand math concepts and processes. Encourage your child to reason through problems using logic instead of simply remembering. Memorising a few versatile strategies can also be helpful. While not every method will work for every child, finding a few that do can significantly improve their math skills. Parents must recognise their child’s struggles and celebrate their progress as they master new skills.
Children with dyscalculia can still succeed in school with the right strategies and accommodations. Parents have an essential role in helping their child with dyscalculia by making maths engaging and removing the fear associated with it. With support and practice, children with dyscalculia can unlock the full potential of their maths ability.
Dyscalculia can affect a person’s learning and daily life in various ways. In school, someone with dyscalculia may struggle with maths lessons and to keep up with the pace of the curriculum. In daily life, someone with dyscalculia may experience difficulty with activities such as telling time, counting money, or following numerical directions. They may also need help in budgeting, managing finances, or quickly comprehending numerical information.
Yes, there are a variety of strategies and interventions that can help individuals with dyscalculia. These include breaking down maths-based tasks into smaller steps, using visuals and manipulatives, providing alternative strategies such as finger counting and number lines, using calculators and other digital tools, and using visual organisers and mnemonic devices.
Assistive technologies and tools can play an essential role in managing dyscalculia. Such tools and technologies include calculators, maths worksheet apps, graph paper organisers, organisational apps, and digital flashcards. These tools can help individuals with dyscalculia manage their maths tasks more quickly and efficiently.
Parents and teachers can best support students with dyscalculia by providing a supportive and structured learning environment. This can include breaking down tasks into smaller steps, providing extra practice or repetition, and providing visual aids and manipulatives. Additionally, it is crucial to provide support with organisation and time management and engaging activities and strategies that can help build confidence in maths. It is also essential to recognise the strengths of students with dyscalculia, as they may excel in certain areas that do not involve maths, and someone struggling with dyscalculia will likely find their confidence knocked.