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Assessment and Support

How can I support a learner with dyscalculia?

Maths is a hierarchical subject where topics are revisited at a more and more complex level. Therefore, if early concepts have not been understood, this will impact on later learning.

In early learning, children should not just be taught the digit symbol and the name but also form an internal visual representation of that number, in other words ‘see’ the number as a dice pattern or numicon tile. This helps establish a good understanding of the relationship between the name of the number, the symbol and its magnitude or size. Children then need to develop flexibility of number and know how numbers are made up, for example, 6 can be 4 + 2, double 3, 5 + 1, 7 – 1. This is equivalent to being able to match letters to sounds in learning to read.

Thereafter all concepts need to be modelled using concrete materials such as Cuisenaire rods, dice patterns, Dienes apparatus and similar.

The main cause of failure in maths is when the symbols have no meaning and children are taught in a procedural way, not understanding what they are doing and therefore not being able to remember the procedure or having the confidence to look for different ways to solve the problems.

We also need to be careful to use maths language correctly and ensure that its meaning is understood.

Good sources of information

  • Emerson, J. & Babtie, P. (2015) Understanding Dyscalculia and Numeracy Difficulties. London: Jessica Kingsley
  • Hornigold, J. (2015) Dyscalculia Pocket Book. Winchester: Teacher’s Pocket Books
  • Hornigold, J. (2017) Understanding Learning Difficulties in Maths: Dyscalculia, Dyslexia or Dyspraxia. London: McGraw-Hill
  • Ronit Bird – Workbooks and ebooks
  • Moorcraft Paul (2014) It Just Doesn’t Add up. St Albans: Tarquin

The Dyscalculia Network and Patoss have a list of tutors