What is Dyscalculia? Find out how to identify and assess it

Published on 12/03/2019

In the UK, dyscalculia is an under-researched learning difficulty and as a result there is little guidance for teachers on how to support students with the condition. We would like to take this opportunity to provide you with some valuable insights into dyscalculia, the indicators and how to assess it. It is estimated that between 5% and 8% of children in the UK have dyscalculia.

What is Dyscalculia?

Many academics have tried to define dyscalculia. The below definitions are the ones most commonly used:

  • Dyscalculia is a condition that affects the ability to acquire arithmetical skills. (DfES 2001)
  • A congenital condition: its effects on the learning of numerical skills can be very profound. (Butterworth)
  • Dysfunction in the reception, comprehension or production of quantitative and spatial information (Sharma).


Indicators of Dyscalculia

There are many indicators of dyscalculia and not all of them are Maths related. These include:

  • An inability to subitise even very small quantities
  • Poor number sense
  • An inability to estimate whether a numerical answer is reasonable
  • Inability to notice patterns
  • Inability to generalise
  • Slow processing speed
  • Immature strategies- for example counting all instead of counting on
  • Weaknesses in both short term and long term memory
  • An inability to count backwards reliably
  • Weakness in visual and spatial orientation
  • Directional confusion
  • Difficulty sequencing
  • Difficulty with language
  • Poor memory for facts and procedures
  • Difficulties in word problems and multi step calculations
  • Problems with all aspects of money
  • Marked delay in learning to tell the time


How do you Identify and Assess for Dyscalculia?

There are numerous means of testing for dyscalculia. Below are the most widely used techniques for formerly diagnosing dyscalculia:

  • Questionnaire/ Checklists – BDA Dyscalculia Checklist
  • Observation – the key things here are to observe how they attempt a question, look for signs for stress and encouraging the learner to verbalise how they are attempting the maths


We hope you’ve found this blog useful. If you would like to find out more about how IDL Numeracy can help your students with dyscalculia or maths anxiety please click here.

In addition, we are holding free CPD Certified Dyscalculia Training events in Barnet on Thursday 28th March or in Birmingham on Wednesday 3rd April. To book a place please visit https://www.idlsgroup.com/training-events