BDA Dyscalculia & Maths Learning Difficulties Committee: Statement in response to research on dyscalculia at Queen’s University, Belfast
Thursday 13 September 2018
BDA Dyscalculia & Maths Learning Difficulties Committee:
Statement in response to research on dyscalculia at Queen’s University, Belfast
By Peter Jarrett (Chair)
We can’t ignore dyscalculia anymore!
The article published yesterday by a team of researchers at Queen’s University, Belfast, and the welcomed media interest confirms that we should be taking dyscalculia and maths difficulties very seriously. Developmental Dyscalculia is a specific and persistent difficulty in understanding arithmetic and basic number sense.
The British Dyslexia Association actively campaigns to ensure that dyscalculia is given the recognition it needs. Yesterday’s article provided some shocking statistics. Firstly, the it confirms that around 6% of the population have dyscalculia, supporting the findings of other research projects. However, the article identified that only one primary school pupil in the study of over 2,400 schoolchildren had a diagnosis of this specific learning difficulty. We would expect the number of children recognised to have dyscalculia to be closer to 150 in this study.
With a figure of around 6% we would expect there to be roughly one pupil who is recognised to have deep and persistent difficulties with mathematics in every class in every school in the country. We are far from this level of recognition and we need to be doing so much more to help our children, their parents and their teachers manage their maths learning, and to support and inform adults who have a challenging relationship with numbers.
The British Dyslexia Association is currently working on several projects that will improve the experience of thousands of people. Teaching and assessing qualifications that have parity with the qualifications for dyslexia specialist teachers will soon be available. This will provide new opportunities for teachers to gain professional recognition for their skills in working with maths difficulties. We are involved in drafting new guidance on the assessment of dyscalculia for existing assessors and Educational Psychologists and will be providing additional training for 100’s of assessors in the new year, and we are planning maths teaching masterclasses with some of the top researchers and practitioners from around the world.
Mathematics skills and the confidence in using them are vitally important in modern life and the BDA is committed to ensuring that those that struggle with learning and using mathematics are given the support they need.
The British Dyslexia Association Dyscalculia and Maths Difficulties Committee has been working on a definition of dyscalculia that can be easily accessible for everyone. This definition states:
Developmental Dyscalculia is a specific and persistent difficulty in understanding arithmetic and basic number sense. It may also affect retrieval of number facts and key procedures, fluent calculation, and interpreting numerical information. It is diverse in character and occurs across all ages and abilities. Dyscalculia is an unexpected difficulty in Maths that cannot be explained by external factors.
Mathematics difficulties are best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, with dyscalculia at the extreme end of this continuum. It should be expected that Developmental Dyscalculia will be distinguishable from general mathematical difficulties due to the severity of difficulties with symbolic and non-symbolic magnitude, number sense and subitising.
Developmental Dyscalculia can often co-occur with other specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Please click here to view the Queen's University research.