Dyscalculia is a specific learning difficulty in mathematics. Like dyslexia, dyscalculia can be caused by a visual perceptual deficit. Dyscalculia refers specifically to the difficulty performing operations in maths or arithmetic. Along with dyslexia, the extent to which you can be affected varies tremendously in each individual. Like dyslexia there is no single set of signs that characterises all dyslexics, there is no one cause of dyscalculia.


  • Understanding the signs: +, -, / and x
  • Adding numbers
  • Subtracting numbers
  • Confusion with mathematical symbols (plus/minus etc)
  • The words, plus, add, add-together
  • Reversing numbers 15 for 51 etc
  • Transposing numbers i.e., 364 – 634
  • Times tables
  • Mental arithmetic
  • Telling the time
  • Inability to follow directions
  • Difficulties with mathematics, calculations and learning number facts such as multiplication

Thank you: www.askus.salford.ac.uk


It should be said that the research on dyscalculia is less developed than the research on dyslexia. For many of those experts who consider that dyscalculia is a term reserved for specific individuals who do not have one or more of the factors

mentioned above, dyscalculia is considered to have a genetic component. If one identical twin has dyscalculia there is a 70% chance that his twin will also be dyscalculic, whereas for non-identical twins the likelihood is 55%. These figures indicate that inheritance plays a part but is not the complete answer. Some researchers consider that there is some immaturity in the inferior parietal cortex and its

interconnections with other areas of the brain.

What are the difficulties which Dyscalculic children have and how do they impact on learning?

Basically, the child will be performing in maths below the expected level and for no obvious reason. They will seem to be underachieving in comparison with their potential or with their ability in other subjects.

 Short-term/working memory

Many children with dyscalculia have inefficient working memory skills in visual, auditory or kinaesthetic (touch) aspects or in a combination of such. This can cause difficulties with processing numbers. For instance, a child trying to add 49 and

13 mentally has to hold the sum in his memory, probably try to add 9 and 3 whilst remembering to carry 1 and to add 4 plus1 plus 1, then recalling the 2 and putting them together in the right sequence to get the answer 62.

Short-term working memory difficulties may even prevent the child from commencing to process a sum because he may forget some or all of what the

teacher has said.

Long-term memory

It is well known that dyscalculic children and other children with difficulties in maths often have a considerable difficulty in learning basic mathematical facts such as the multiplication tables. Clearly, without such knowledge, the dyscalculic child will experience problems in those mathematical tasks which require table knowledge. Poor long-term memory also affects retention of and thus knowledge of mathematical formulae and methods.

Attention span/concentration

Many children with dyslexia and dyscalculia have difficulty in maintaining focus on a particular task. This will affect their attention to the teacher’s instructions and may also affect their short-term memory ie they may be able to focus on one aspect

of instructions (written or oral) but not the remainder of the instructions, meaning that they begin tasks with incomplete information.

Visual perception

The pupil may confuse certain written numerical symbols and letters. He may tend to reverse them or invert them (turn them upside down). Common errors are to confuse the numbers 6 and 9, 3 and 5, E and number 3. Additionally, and this may relate as

much to a central processing deficit as to a visual perceptual deficit, many dyscalculic children have problems in discriminating the basic mathematical symbols ie: +, -, ÷, x. 

Auditory perception

Some dyscalculic children (and, indeed, others with auditory problems) have difficulty in distinguishing spoken numbers such as 9, 19 and 90.

Information processing speed

It is known that children with specific learning difficulties often work more slowly than their less disabled counterparts. Whilst the rest of the class is

on question 11, a dyscalculic child may still be working on question 5. He may get less work completed and thus may get much less practice and exposure to number processes.

Sequencing,laterality and directional confusion

Many dyscalculic children have difficulty with concepts of leftness and rightness. This is associated with letter and number reversals. They also have difficulty in remembering the correct sequence of the months of the year, the days of the

week or the seasons. Mathematically, they frequently have difficulty with knowing what number comes after a particular number or what number comes

before a particular number. Children asked to write 18 may write 81.

In our Western culture, reading is a left to right scanning process. Often, children are required to scan from left to right in maths ie:

6 + 2 + 1 =

23 – 6 =

4 x 2 =

If a child has difficulty with directionality and sequencing, he may attempt to move from right to left rather than left to right. In maths, there is an additional problem over literacy which is that there are different start points of different types of sums.


312 +

In the above sum, the child starts at the right and works towards the left. However, in the following sum, a subtraction sum, the child starts at the bottom right and has to remember to take the lower number from the top number, ‘borrow’ from the left upper

number and move left:


367 –

In long division, in contrast, the child starts at the left and moves towards the right and moves downwards whilst writing the answer at the top:

4 369

Problems of remembering sequence, laterality and direction make life hard for a dyscalculic child who has to cope with all three of these issues – often at thesame time.

Thank you.  Excerpts taken from : http://www.applefordschool.org/factsheets_files/_FactSheet-Dyscalculia.pdf