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Dyscalculia Virtual Conference 2023 - The importance of using visual materials in maths learning

Being able to visualise numbers as dot arrays and on a number line are vital skills in being able to process and understand number relationships. 


Thursday 18th May 2023
9:00am - 5:00pm


Virtual / Online
United Kingdom

At this conference experts in the fields of visualisation will discuss how to help learners develop number sense and the concept of number through the use of concrete materials.

There will be an introduction to screening tools that can identify key signs of maths difficulties to inform intervention. There will also be tips for how to support parents with maths learning at home.

Hosted by Pete Jarrett - co-founder and MD of Tutorum Technologies Ltd. Pete is a specialist teacher and assessor of learners with specific learning difficulties and an experienced maths teacher

**6.5 hour CPD Certificate will be sent after attendance of the conference**

Should you be interested but unable to attend live on the day, you can purchase a recording ticket.


You will receive an email with a link to access the recording by the 25th May. To ensure the video is only used by the purchaser, you will be provided with a unique password to access the recording. You will have up to 30 days access to the recording.

The login you are provided with is for the sole use of the purchaser. The recording is copyright British Dyslexia Association 2023.

Our fantastic Line-up of Speakers!

Dr Sue Gifford - Emeritus Fellow - University of Roehampton

Spatial reasoning and mathematics

Spatial reasoning: what is it and why should we be teaching it?

According to recent research, young children’s spatial thinking is a strong predictor of their mathematics achievement. It involves being able to visualise spatial relationships and to manipulate mental images, including constructions, patterns, maps and diagrams.

A focus on outdoor experiences, spatial puzzles and construction may therefore provide an alternative route to mathematical thinking, particularly for disadvantaged groups. In this session we will consider how spatial activities might help children become good at maths.

Target Audience: Primary

Dr Sue Gifford works as an early years mathematics consultant with practitioners and various official bodies, and chairs the Early Childhood Maths Group. Previously a London reception teacher, she worked with pre-service teachers at Roehampton University and has researched early years mathematics and children with mathematics difficulties.

She has written and co-authored several books for teachers, including 'Making Numbers: Using manipulatives to teach arithmetic'. Her current research interests include the development of spatial reasoning and links between patterning and music.

Dr Ems Lord - Director of NRICH

Enabling learners to become better problem-solving through visualisation

In this interactive session, Dr Ems Lord will draw upon her experiences of supporting learners of all ages to become better problem-solvers by exploring the different ways that visualisation can support the problem-solving process.

Along the way, Ems will offer a guided tour of the multiple award-winning NRICH website and share valuable insights into making the most of its
offering for all teachers and learners.

Target Audience: Primary and Secondary School Learners

Dr Ems Lord was appointed as NRICH Director in 2015, heading up one of the largest maths outreach projects in the world, based at the University of Cambridge. Dr Lord is a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematics and a Founding Fellow of the Chartered College of Teaching its Applications.

Ems is a thought leader in mathematics, championing the teaching and learning of mathematics in the national media as well as being a regular contributor to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Teaching Profession, a recent President of the Mathematics Association, and member of the Joint Mathematical Council.

Ems has taught mathematics across the key stages, from Early Years to A Level Further Mathematics, and has worked in a variety of settings including a hospital school. Her previous roles include supporting schools as a Leading Mathematics Teacher, local authority consultant and as a Chartered Mathematics Teacher. Ems led one of the largest Mathematics Specialist Teacher programmes in the country and has taught mathematics education on both BEd and PGCE teacher programmes.

She is a research fellow at Clare Hall College, Cambridge and supervises students following the Masters programme for the Faculty of Education.

Peter Mattock - Assistant Principal - Brockington College

Let it make sense!

There are many reasons why pupils struggle with maths. One big reason is that, for many pupils, maths simply doesn't make sense. It is taught as a series of isolated procedures which pupils are expected to remember - a near impossible task for some. What is particularly ironic is that maths, above all over subjects, is the one that should make most sense! Concepts in maths are inherently coherent provided they are explored with pupils in a way that makes sense.

In this session we will look at some of the concepts that span school-level maths, how they can be introduced and developed in a way that supports pupils' sense-making (using suitable models, representations and manipulatives amongst other things).

Target Audience: Anyone who teaches maths!

Peter Mattock has been teaching maths for over 15 years. He is a specialist leader of education (SLE) and an accredited secondary maths professional development lead who regularly presents at conferences across the country.

Peter also develops teaching for mastery in the secondary school classroom, having been part of the first cohort of specialists trained in mastery approaches by the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM). Peter is the author of Visible Maths, and the recently published Conceptual Maths from Crown House Publishing.

Sarah Wedderburn - Specialist teacher and lecturer - Unicornmaths

Maths Support - Make this concrete, fun and targeted to the student's needs

My experience as a specialist teacher has taught me that it is no good talking at my students, even if they are listening and trying to concentrate, the knowledge never seems to be retained. However, if we introduce concrete resources that they can manipulate, and reinforce with a game, they understand and can remember.

During this presentation we will look at a variety of multi-sensory ways to support primary maths concepts and see how the same principals of fun and interactive activities can be applied to diagnostic assessment.

Target Audience: Specialist teachers, primary teachers, SENCOs

Sarah Wedderburn founded Unicornmaths in 2003 based on the principle ‘Make numbers real and make them fun’. She believes that effective maths remediation needs to be multi-sensory, encouraging students to touch and move concrete resources so that they develop full understanding and strong visual images before moving on to abstract reasoning. This interaction needs to be enjoyable and include continual overlearning and revisiting to build up a student’s confidence and retention.

Sarah is the author of the Diagnostic Assessment of Numeracy Skills (DANS), a qualitative maths assessment that uses activities and games to discover what a student really knows, rather than what they can present on paper. The DANS Assessment Map enables targeted lesson planning as it clearly shows which numerical concepts are fully understood, and which need reinforcing in class and individual support lessons.

DANS Solutions One and DANS Solutions Two are follow-up publications to the DANS. These toolkits are full of ideas, games and activities to support students with maths difficulties and dyscalculia at Key Stage One and Key Stage Two.

Sarah runs the Unicornmaths Advanced Dyscalculia Training Course for teachers and presents seminars and workshops on ‘Diagnostic Numeracy Assessment’ and ‘Multi-Sensory Maths Remediation’ at national and international conferences.

Dr Rosemary Russell - Director - AR & RR Education Ltd

How to Help Parents Develop Mathematical Resilience in their Children

A child’s attitude to maths, and their chances of success in the subject, is often unwittingly shaped by the attitude of the parents. Thus, helping parents to nourish their children’s attitude to maths can improve their ability to learn the subject. Fortunately, the things that parents need to be doing (or not doing) do not require any specialist maths knowledge, and they are really very simple.

Dr Russell is the author of ‘Help Your Child DO Maths Even If You DON’T – 10 things that anyone can do to help their child with maths’ and in this talk she will share the key messages regarding parental engagement and developing mathematical resilience that parents need to know.

Target Audience: Senior Leaders, Heads of Mathematics, Teachers, Teaching Assistants and SENCOs. Suitable for both Primary or Secondary.

After gaining an Honours degree in Pure Mathematics, Probability and Statistics and a PGCE from the University of Sheffield, Rosemary taught in London, and then moved to Dorset. She took a career break from teaching to run a small fashion business when her children were young. Her dabble in the business world gave her valuable insights as to how those outside education view what goes on in school.

The things parents said to her in that time led her to write her first book, Maths for Parents (Piccadilly, 1996). This led to the invitation and encouragement from Dr. Bob Burn (then at the University of Exeter) to do research in the field of parents helping their children with mathematics, which ultimately led to Rosemary being awarded a PhD from the University of Bristol in 2002, with Professor Martin Hughes as her supervisor.

Rosemary is now focusing on her writing and consultancy work, and giving author talks based on her latest book, Help Your Child Do Maths Even If You Don’t.

Help Your Child DO Maths even if you DON'T: 10 things that anyone can do to help their child with maths: Ten things that anyone can do to help their child with maths: Russell, Dr Rosemary, Russell, Adrian: 9781838112813: Books

For more details about Dr Rosemary Russell, please see her website:

Brenda Ferrie - Course Leader, Dyscalculia - British Dyslexia Association

An Introduction to visualisation in learning maths

Visualisation plays has important role in maths learning by developing and understanding of the magnitudes of numbers and their values. This presentation is an overview of what to expect from our esteemed presenters.

Target Audience: Primary and Secondary Maths teachers

Brenda trained as a secondary maths teacher, and encountering a number bright young learners who could not retain information and transfer work to paper lead her to specialise in dyslexia.

She was been working with learners with dyslexia for about 30 years. She joined the BDA eight years ago and is now runs the professional training in dyscalculia. She is also a qualified assessor for dyslexia and dyscalculia.

Karim Esmail - Director - Jelly James Publishing

Dynamo Post14 – Dyscalculia Screener and Assessment for adults

Karim will provide an overview of the research and evidence-based NumberSenseMMRTM framework that is successfully used to identify developmental dyscalculia symptoms and maths developmental delays.

He will share the development of Dynamo Post14 Dyscalculia screener and assessment for adults

Target Audience: Dyscalculia Assessors, Tutors, Colleges, Higher Education, Vocational Trainers, SENCo, ALNCo, Support Teacher

Karim Esmail is technical director, with a background in research and development, design of innovative educational and special needs products, international business development and leveraging ICT and AI technologies.

His recent project has been in the development of dyscalculia Dynamo Post14 screener and the assessment program, using experience and evidence leveraged from a large user base of dyscalculia Dynamo Maths assessment and intervention program successfully used globally.

Janet Goring - Manger, Wandsworth Literacy and Numeracy Support Service.

It’s not the winning, it’s the Learning that counts: Maximising the Impact of Maths Games

The session will explore how maths games can be developed to ensure maximum learning for our students. It will consider the research on maths games and encourage teachers to use their own metacognition to develop students’ understanding and confidence.

There will be a particular focus on using manipulatives as game boards. Participants may find it useful to have some of the following resources available to model/play along: Five dot dice, ten frame, ten two-coloured counters.

Target Audience: Specialist teachers/class teachers in primary and secondary schools

Janet Goring has taught for over twenty years as a class teacher, maths subject leader, Advanced Skills teacher and most recently as a specialist teacher for pupils with specific learning difficulties. She currently manages a local authority team of 10 specialist teachers working with students from KS1-5 with literacy and/or maths difficulties. She has a Masters in Specific Learning Difficulties, specialising in Dyslexia and Maths difficulties. Her dissertation researched how playing a board game can increase number sense, following a career-long interest in using games to develop understanding and increase enjoyment in maths.

Janet is an accredited Professional Development lead for the NCETM and has led SEND work groups for the last six years in her local Maths Hub. The two current projects are looking at an approach to Maths Anxiety using Zones of regulation for mainstream schools and a smaller steps curriculum for special schools. She is also on the Dyscalculia committee of the British Dyslexia Association.

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