Dyscalculia and Numeracy Difficulties

Dyscalculia is a common condition that affects the ability to acquire numerical skills. Difficulties understanding the concept of number and the structure of the number system prevents acquisition of basic arithmetic skills at the expected age. Dyscalculia is a deficit in the core capacity to process numbers; it is of neurological origin and affects about 5% of school age children.

Numeracy difficulties may occur as a consequence of other learning difficulties. About 25% of the UK population have severe numeracy difficulties.

The National Numeracy Strategy (DfES, 2001) offers the following definition: ’Dyscalculia is a condition that affects the ability to acquire arithmetical skills. Dyscalculic learners may have difficulty understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers, and
have problems learning number facts and procedures. Even if they produce a correct answer or use a correct method, they may do so mechanically and without confidence.’ (DfES, 2001, p2).

Dyscalculia is commonly associated with:

  • Difficulties counting accurately

  • Counting using fingers

  • Poor knowledge of the value of a number

  • Difficulty grasping new procedures and concepts

  • Poor sequential memory for numbers and operations

  • Slow speed of processing numerical information

  • Difficulty recognising patterns in numbers

  • Weak understanding of place value

  • Difficulties using the number line or number square