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Dyscalculia disorder

Dyscalculia disorder is a developmental, or acquired disorder that results in an inability to do or learn mathematics, particularly arithmetic. This means difficulty in some or all of the following:

  • mastering simple number concepts
  • understanding number relationships
  • understanding spatial relationships and learning algorithms and applying them

It is most commonly revealed through substantially lowered arithmetical achievement, sometimes several years below the appropriate level.

Although dyscalculia can exist alone, it is often associated with dyslexia or dyspraxia as all affect short term memory and how the brain processes information.

Current indications are that dyscalculia affects up to 5% of the population. The following checklist can be used as a guide to determine next steps, which should include support within the classroom and possibly a referral to the school psychologist.

Main characteristics

  • mental calculations
  • learning basic number bonds
  • confusion/reversals with numbers and signs
  • working on the 4 computations
  • counting backwards and in multiples
  • telling the time, days and months
  • visual puzzles
  • problem solving
  • language of maths
  • following correct methods and procedures
  • finishing tasks within a reasonable time
  • anxiety and confidence

Guiding principles

  • the overall guiding principle is to start with concrete materials, move on to pictorial representations and finally oral explanations
  • children must be able to hear the teacher, watch the teacher, use the concrete material themselves and talk through the process
  • concrete material should always be available for the children to use as they require
  • children must be encouraged to talk through their thinking process
  • learning and teaching strategies should be tailored to meet the needs of each individual child, taking age as well as ability into consideration
  • teachers must be flexible in allowing children to explore unconventional methods in order to find a solution to a given task
  • allow the children to use 'aide memoire' cards
  • ensure the language of maths and concept involved in each task is understood
  • avoid overload of concepts, procedures and instructions
  • ascertain child‟s present level of understanding at the start of each lesson before moving on
  • use squared paper of an appropriate size
  • keep worksheets uncluttered and restrict the number of concepts per page
  • allow extra time for overlearning
  • keep teaching multi-sensory
  • present previous teaching in new ways


Exam concessions may be permitted by Scottish Qualifications Authority.  Each case will be looked at individually:

  • the label is the starting point
  • identify the barriers—must be specific to maths
  • make adjustments and gather evidence in the usual way

Next steps

If you feel that a pupil in your class may have dyscalculia speak to your EAST teacher or ASN Co-ordinator who will investigate further. Further referrals go to the School Psychologist.

Contact Information

East Ayrshire Support Team (EAST)
Crosshouse Campus
Playingfield Road
01563 554974