Dyscalculia, also referred to as “number blindness” is a condition which is estimated to affect 1 in 20 people. The people who suffer dyscalculia struggle to understand simple number concepts and have problems learning number facts and procedures.
Many children who suffer from dyscalculia also suffer from ADHD and/or dyslexia.
What should I look for in my child?
Children with dyscalculia find it hard to learn maths techniques that are taught at school, like adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing.
If you notice these specific issues in your child by the time they reach the reception class at primary school, you may have cause for concern:
- Poor one-to-one correspondence. When we count out coins on a table, most of us move each coin distinctly with a finger as we separate it from the pile. An early sign of dyscalculia is if your child doesn’t touch or move the coins while trying to count them out.
- Failure to recognise small quantities. Early number sense means understanding early number names and attaching a label to small quantities. For example, by reception stage you should exect that your child is able to look at four random objects laid on a table then say how many there are.
- Difficulty recognising that different quantities are bigger and smaller when represented as objects or digits. This ability is about an early understanding of addition, subtraction and estimation.
How can I help my child?
There are lots of counting activities you can do around early numbers with your child if they’re struggling. For example, recognising that four is one more than three, and is one less than five, and is two lots of two.
Use things that they can touch, feel and see, as children with dyscalculia often find it easier to learn using concrete materials. Here are some more ideas:
- Estimation. Put two sets of items on a table, for example eight items next to three items, then four items next to three items. Ask ‘Which is the bigger number? Which pile has less?’ Teaching your child to appraise quantity and estimate is a valuable skill.
- Working with counters. Put four counters in a square shape then ask your child what they see. Cover up two counters, so they see it’s two lots of two. Next cover up three so they learn it’s three and one.
- Practise forwards and backwards. Children with dyscalculia can have problems counting back and forth, particularly when it comes to twos and threes.
- Break down prices. Shopping is a great chance to play around with numbers. If you see something that costs 69p, point out it’s 50p and 10p and 9 pennies. Or it’s 50p and 20p, and you’d get a penny back.
Getting professional help
There is no medication that can help with dyscalculia. There are however tests available which can be carried out in Schools to assess if your child has dyscalculia.