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What is dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia is an unexpected and persistent learning difficulty that makes it hard to understand, learn, or use maths. Often described as “dyslexia of numbers” – it is much less well-known than dyslexia.

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What are the signs?

Dyscalculia makes learning arithmetic much more difficult. There may be difficulties in:

  • recognising numbers,
  • connecting number symbols and words,
  • placing things in order,
  • learning sequences,
  • grasping the properties of numbers (such as that knowing ‘9’ is nine ‘1’s, but also that it is three ‘3’s),
  • counting backwards,
  • estimating,
  • understanding place value (such as the difference between £500 and £5.00),
  • doubling and halving.

How does dyscalculia affect your life?

Dyscalculia can slow down academic progress and career progression, and may cause strong anxiety about maths. Day-to-day effects may include trouble with:

  • recalling PIN or telephone numbers,
  • matching a number of objects to a number symbol or word,
  • managing time,
  • planning journeys,
  • choosing the right notes or coins to pay with,
  • following directions,
  • reading a clockface,
  • driving at the right speed,
  • telling if one amount is greater than another,
  • using multiplication or division,
  • understanding distances.

How can you find out if you have dyscalculia, vs. having a lack of confidence with numbers?

We are all on a spectrum of confidence and ease with maths and many people who do not have a learning difficulty do find it difficult to learn maths. Many adults lack confidence with numbers, find maths hard, or have ‘maths anxiety’ which can get in the way of dealing with numbers and data in daily life – causing similar effects to dyscalculia. Information and support are available from The Dyscalculia Network. You can arrange to be assessed for dyscalculia by contacting the Helpline at the British Dyslexia Association.

Can you improve your maths if you have dyscalculia?

Yes! Whether you have dyscalculia, maths anxiety, lack confidence with maths, or just know that you could do with brushing up your skills, you CAN improve as an adult. Improvement may be slower, and specialist support may be needed from tutors who understand different ways of learning, but however you currently feel about maths – you CAN improve.

More Support

Dyscalculia is often described as “dyslexia of numbers” – but it is much less well-known than dyslexia, which means that so far there is less support available for people with dyscalculia. Check out the helpful articles about dyscalculia below and visit The British Dyslexia Association too where you can find out about assessments for dyscalculia.

With thanks to Clare Trott, Brian Butterworth, Steve Chinn & Brenda Ferrie at the British Dyslexia Association.

Try building your confidence in your own time, at your own pace

The National Numeracy Challenge is a place where you can check your skills and build your confidence with numbers, for free. It’s already helped thousands of people who thought they couldn’t improve.

It’s not designed as a way to identify dyscalculia, but it is designed for all ability levels, and to help you identify and improve the skills you need to work on. It also focuses on the maths we need in daily life, and not on the abstract maths we were often taught at school.

Why not give it a go? 

Start now 

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