Nine Facts for Parents & Teachers about Maths Learning Disabilities

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Peter Barnes
Learning Difficulties, Memory

What is maths learning disability? This disability, known as "dyscalculia", is not as well known as other learning disabilities, such as reading disability, but it can effect more than one in 12 children.

Here are some facts that experts say about maths disability (courtesy of the USA National Center for Learning Disabilities).

  1. "Dyscalculia" describes a fairly wide range of difficulties students have with maths. It is not a single condition. Children may have a difficulty with one or more aspects of maths, or struggle with multiple maths processes.
  2. It is more common in boys than girls.
  3. Estimates for the number of children with this disability range from 5% to 9%.
  4. Children with this condition may also have other learning difficulties, such as trouble learning to read.
  5. We understand more about reading disabilities than maths disabilities because research on reading has been happening over the past 30 years. But research on maths learning disability gathering pace.
  6. If parents and teachers identify a student really struggling with maths, you should not delay getting them specialist help. Because math instruction builds on foundational skills, it is important to help them as early as possible. If they are suffering from dyscalculia, they are most unlikely to "grow out of it".
  7. Students with poor executive function skills (working memory, planning and organisation) are more likely to struggle with maths.
  8. If a student also has reading difficulties, improving their reading skills can help with their maths. 
Strategies for helping students with dyscalculia include:
  • Additional tutoring focussed on the students areas of difficulty
  • For those with maths learning difficulties only - strengthen working memory by using Cogmed Working memory, an online program specifically built to develop working memory
  • For those with maths learning difficulties and other learning difficulties including reading - consider using Fast ForWord, an online program that develops both language/reading skills and cognitive skills including working memory.

Download 'What to do When your Child has Dyscalculia

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