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Dyscalculia is a life-long condition that makes it difficult for individuals of normal intelligence to understand and manipulate numbers.  Like dyslexia and dysgraphia, it is a neurological (brain-based) disorder, which causes significant issues with mastering number sense, facts and even simple calculations. 


According to the Dyslexia-SPELD Foundation

A specific learning disorder with impairment in mathematics (often referred to as dyscalculia) is associated with significant difficulty understanding numbers and working with mathematical concepts.  Dyscalculia is a term referring to a wide range of difficulties with maths, including weaknesses in understanding the meaning of numbers, and difficulty applying mathematical principles to solve problems. Dyscalculia is rarely identified early. 

Students in preschool may exhibit:

  • trouble or delay when learning to count 

  • difficulty recognising numbers 

  • difficulty associating numbers to objects (for example applying “3” to groups of things like 3 cars or 3 cakes) 

  • difficulty associating numerical symbols to their corresponding words (for example applying "5" to "five") 

  • difficulty recognising patterns and placing things in order 

  • an inability to track when counting 

  • a reliance on visual aids - like fingers - to count. 

Students in high school may:

  • struggle to understand information on charts and graphs 

  • have trouble finding different approaches to the same maths problem (such as adding the length and width of a rectangle and doubling the answer to solve for the perimeter, rather than adding all the sides) 

  • struggle to learn and understand reasoning methods and multi-step calculation procedures 

  • have trouble measuring items (like ingredients in a simple recipe) 

  • lack confidence in activities that require an understanding of speed, distance and directions 

  • have trouble applying mathematical concepts to money. 

Students in primary school may:

  • experience difficulty learning and recalling basic number facts 

  • use fingers to count instead of using more age-appropriate strategies, such as ‘mental maths’ 

  • have a poor understanding of mathematical symbols 

  • struggle to recognise that 3 + 5 is the same as 5 + 3, or may not be able to solve 3 + 26 ‒ 26 without calculating 

  • have trouble with place value (putting numbers in the wrong column) 

  • not understand mathematical language, or be able to devise a plan to solve a Maths problem 

  • find it difficult to understand mathematical phrases like 'greater than' and 'less than' 

  • have trouble keeping score in sports or games 

  • have difficulty calculating the total cost of items 

  • avoid situations that require understanding numbers, like playing games that involve counting. 

Adults may experience:

  • difficulty counting backwards 

  • difficulty remembering ‘basic’ facts 

  • delay in performing calculations 

  • weak ‘mental maths’ skills 

  • a poor sense of numbers & estimation 

  • difficulty understanding place value 

  • difficulty calculating basic addition 

  • high levels of mathematics anxiety. 

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