What is Dyscalculia?


Dyscalculia is a Specific Learning Difficulty which is a core problem with number sense.   This definition was formulated by the SASC (Specific Learning Difficulties Assessment Standards Committee) at the 2019 Conference: 

Dyscalculia is a specific and persistent difficulty in understanding numbers which can lead to a diverse range of difficulties with mathematics. It will be unexpected in relation to age, level of education and experience and occurs across all ages and abilities. Mathematics difficulties are best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and they have many causal factors.  Dyscalculia falls at one end of the spectrum and will be distinguishable from other maths issues due to the severity of difficulties with number sense, including subitising, symbolic and non-symbolic magnitude comparison, and ordering.  It can occur singly but often co-occurs with other specific learning difficulties, mathematics anxiety and medical conditions.


Dyscalculia could be summarised as the following:

  • difficulty understanding simple number concepts, 
  • lacking an intuitive grasp of numbers, inability to tell which of two numbers is larger, 
  • difficulty with making sensible estimates,
  • difficulty with reading clocks and checking change, 
  • problems learning number facts and procedures.
  • Comorbidity with dyslexia between 35% and 55%


Strategies and support materials:

  • Use patterns and benchmark numbers, eg counting in 2’s, 5’s and 10’s. Playing cards are excellent for showing number patterns.
  • Cusenaire rods, place value cards, flashcards for lesson starters
  • Practise rounding and estimating
  • Use concrete and pictorial examples as much as possible
  • Visually display the vocabulary associated with maths
  • Use whiteboards for pupils to write their answers on (After the age of 10, a child can identify maths with anxiety so getting wrong answers can be so damaging.)


For further information:

Professor Steve Chinn and Jenny Hornigold are leading experts in this field.   Highly experienced and renowned worldwide, they have conducted many studies, taught many children and written numerous books. 

Professor Steve Chinn – https://www.stevechinn.co.uk/