"Don't 'Dys-' Me!" – What is Dyscalculia? | Education Elephant

Dyscalculia is to Maths, what Dyslexia is to Literacy. Dyscalculia is a specific learning disability in Mathematics and Numbers. People with Dyscalculia struggle processing numbers, maths-concepts and the symbols and functions required when solving Maths problems. Experts believe that Dyscalculia is just as common as Dyslexia (1 in 10 people), despite being less-well-known and less understood.


Here are some common things to be aware of about Dyscalculia:

  • Dyscalculia is thought to occur equally amongst boys and girls
  • Divided attention is affected by Dyscalculia making it hard for students to multitask
  • Caused by a cognitive impairment in numeric representation


Signs and Symptoms of Dyscalculia:

  • Difficulty when having to name and understand maths concepts that have been presented verbally
  • Struggles to translate abstract concepts into real concepts
  • Understands the concepts used in maths but has trouble manipulating and applying it to real situations
  • Difficulty reading maths symbols, numbers, expressions, and equations
  • Understands concepts better when they are aurally presented
  • Struggles when writing maths symbols
  • Understands the concepts but lacks the ability to write them down
  • Trouble in performing mental maths operations
  • Difficulty remembering concepts once taught them
  • Trouble completing both written and spoken maths operations or calculations
  • Understands the relations between numbers but struggles to manipulate numbers when having to calculate them


Activities to help children with Dyscalculia:

  • Use different foods to teach different operations and counting (e.g. grouping small foods such as raisins, grapes, or berries, to teach times tables), or even cook something together with a recipe that uses different measurements and multiplication.
  • Teach maths through music, using drums or a keyboard, asking to hear your child play different groups of numbers i.e. “play two groups of 4” or “play 5 groups of 3”.
  • Board Games! Find board games that involve mathematical operations and number recognition and hold a family game night or have board game time in the classroom. Some favourites include Monopoly, Darts, Connect 4, Battleship, and UNO.
  • Integrate Maths into sports and/or performance arts; mix maths with something your child feels confident with to subsequently boost their confidence in maths.


How to accommodate Dyscalculia in the Classroom:

  • Incorporate shopping and prices into maths activities
  • Help students learn and remember their phone numbers
  • Use concrete materials to make maths more hands-on and interactive
  • Allow access to online maths activities and games to make learning maths a more positive, fun experience


With proper diagnosis by a psychologist, such as through a qualified Educational Psychologist and early intervention, all of these learning disabilities can be treated so your children and students can get the most out of their education and most importantly, enjoy learning and going to school without feeling like a burden or a failure. Every child can be successful with the right guidance and goals.

In Ireland, our sister company, Eirim: The National Assessment Agency provides further in-person training courses for educators from time to time in Ireland, as well as an assessment service for schools and students across the country to identify learning needs of students.