Updated on 12th June 2023.
Developmental dyscalculia is a learning difficulty that affects someone’s ability to understand number concepts and acquire mathematical skills. Dyscalculia is not dependent on IQ or general intelligence and can be found across all ages, genders and ethnicities.
Researchers don’t yet have a definite answer for what causes dyscalculia, but a few possible causes have been identified. It’s thought that the learning difficulty may be caused by genetics, as it tends to run in families. If a parent has dyscalculia, there’s a good chance that it may be passed down to their child.
In addition, some brain imaging studies have shown dissimilarities between the brain structure of people with and without dyscalculia. These studies have shown differences in the thickness and volume of parts of the brain used for mathematical processing.
Students who have dyscalculia at school, college and university can have trouble with maths lessons while adults who have it can struggle with tasks such as budgeting, driving (e.g. recording mileage or calculating distance), cooking (e.g. knowing the quantities of ingredients for a recipe or what oven temperature to use), DIY or home maintenance (e.g. reading measurements on tape measures), reading transportation timetables and helping their children with their homework.
Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved with accurate/fluent reading and spelling. Whilst it can also cause struggles with maths, this is not the sole sign of dyslexia.
On the other hand, dyscalculia is specific to difficulties with numerical concepts and doesn’t cause trouble with reading or spelling. In fact, many people with dyscalculia are great with words!
Parents who are concerned that their children may have dyscalculia can discuss this with the special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) at the child’s educational facility or their GP. Extra maths coaching or tuition may be beneficial with children who have dyscalculia. Children who have suspected dyscalculia need to be referred to an educational psychologist by relevant school staff, such as SENCOs.
The following websites have screening tests for teenagers and adults to determine if they have dyscalculia. Please note that these screening tests should only be used as indicators of dyscalculia, not formal diagnoses.
Dyslexic.com (Note: The cost of this ranges from £30.00 – £600.00)
Exceptional Individuals (Note: This screening test is free.)
Teenagers and adults who have taken any of the above tests may wish to book an appointment with their GP to discuss the results. The GP may then refer them to an educational psychologist through the British Dyslexia Foundation. Since the NHS do not classify dyscalculia as a medical issue, a test with an educational psychologist can cost £450.00.
Nat Hawley, our Head of Community, has hosted a webinar about dyscalculia. The webinar includes various maths questions that viewers can answer to determine if they’re dyscalculic. The webinar is not intended to diagnose dyscalculia. Only a medical professional can make a diagnosis.