What is Dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia is usually perceived of as a specific learning difficulty for mathematics, or, more appropriately, arithmetic

The definition below comes from the American Psychiatric Association (2013):

“Developmental Dyscalculia (DD) is a specific learning disorder that is characterised by impairments in learning basic arithmetic facts, processing numerical magnitude and performing accurate and fluent calculations. These difficulties must be quantifiably below what is expected for an individual’s chronological age, and must not be caused by poor educational or daily activities or by intellectual impairments.”



Typical symptoms of dyscalculia/mathematical learning difficulties are:

  • Has difficulty when counting backwards.
  • Has a poor sense of number and estimation.
  • Has difficulty in remembering ‘basic’ facts, despite many hours of practice/rote learning.
  • Has no strategies to compensate for lack of recall, other than to use counting.
  • Has difficulty in understanding place value and the role of zero in the Arabic/Hindu number system.
  • Has no sense of whether any answers that are obtained are right or nearly right.
  • Tends to be slower to perform calculations. (Therefore give less examples, rather than more time).
  • Forgets mathematical procedures, especially as they become more complex, for example ‘long’ division.
  • Addition is often the default operation. The other operations are usually very poorly executed (or avoided altogether).
  • Avoids tasks that are perceived as difficult and likely to result in a wrong answer.
  • Weak mental arithmetic skills.
  • High levels of mathematics anxiety.

Dyscalculia and Educational Psychologists

Educational psychologists can work with schools and parents when dyscalculia is suspected in a child / young person, or has already been diagnosed. There isn’t a single assessment for dyscalculia, instead an educational psychologist will look at numeracy skills in general and recommend strategies to support learning. There are many reasons why a child may have difficulties with numeracy, not just dyscalculia. Psychology4learning can provide one to one work with the child or training to school staff.

Contact us directly for further information.