Dyscalculia – Spot The Signs

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Signs of Dyscalculia

It’s important to take signs of dyscalculia seriously. At the beginning of school, all children experience occasional difficulties with math. If these problems fail to dissipate with supported homework sessions or additional hours of practice, however, parents and teachers should be on alert for potential dyscalculia.

The following signs can indicate the presence of dyscalculia:


General well-being

  • …has anxiety about going to school
  • …has anxiety about taking tests

  • …has a negative perception of their own intelligence

  • …is withdrawn
  • …expects to fail
  • …displays frustration and a reluctance to try (maths) in other subjects

Doing homework

  • …requires a disproportionate amount of time
  • …quickly becomes tired

  • …feels the need to concentrate intensely, even for simple tasks

  • …needs a lot of support
  • …wants a parent or other adult to be present
  • …frequently seeks reassurance that their answers are correct
  • …often forgets what is to be done as homework
  • …cannot explain their work

  • …has the feeling that they are not getting better, even after lots of practice
  • …reacts sensitively when trying to work, with frequent arguments or tears


Typical mistakes at primary level

  • …has difficulty understanding spatial relationships – mixes up left/right, front/back, above/below

  • …has difficulty judging how one quantity compares to another, e.g.: bigger/smaller, less/more

  • …has difficulty transcoding a number into a particular quantity or size; instead, simply remembers the name and sequence of numbers

  • …mixes up numerals or writes them as mirror images

  • …has an imprecise concept of weeks, months, and years
  • …has a poor sense of time, e.g. in 10 minutes
  • …struggles to say a number sequence backwards, e.g. 20 to 1

  • …almost always counts on their fingers

  • …mixes up tens and units positions, e.g. 12/21,13/31

  • …always starts over when solving problems that follow each other in a logical pattern, e.g. 6+2, 6+3…
  • …struggles when crossing the tens boundary

  • …often misses the correct answer by 1, e.g. 7+5=13 / 12-8=5

  • …is slow to recognise similar problems, e.g. 6+2= and 16+2= and 60+20=
  • …thinks about the problem for so long and in such a long-winded way that they can no longer recall the sum they are trying to solve
  • …has great difficulty with substitution exercises, e.g.? – 7=15
  • …prefers to solve even simple sums on paper
  • …frequently mixes up “plus”, “minus”, “times” and “divided by”

  • …is not able see the difference between (e.g.) 7-4= and 4-7=
  • …is not able to spot obvious mistakes

  • …has problems with times of day, units of weight and other dimensions
  • …switches around the positions of numbers to make sums easier to calculate, e.g. 63-25=42
  • …is uncomfortable solving text-based exercises

  • …struggles to comprehend the difference between units of currency, e.g. 50 cents vs. 5 dollars
  • …generally struggles with money, e.g. calculating change

Typical mistakes at secondary level

  • …needs more time than their peers, since they are still counting out numbers to solve addition and subtraction sums

  • …forgets explanations very quickly
  • …has far less ability to solve text-based exercises than numerical sums

  • …usually picks an arbitrary operation when solving text-based exercises
  • …has trouble with substitution exercises, e.g. ? – 8=13, or solves them incorrectly, e.g. 5-8=13
  • …solves simple addition and subtraction tasks in the 100s range in writing
  • …always recites multiplication tables from the beginning
  • …is not able to recognise that their calculations are incorrect

  • …has great difficulty crossing the tens or hundreds boundary

  • …makes numerous subtraction errors

  • …struggles to deal with quantities (weight, length, time)

  • …struggles to perform calculations with money
  • …applies explanations in a mechanical fashion, but forgets them soon afterwards

  • …swaps numbers around to avoid having to cross the tens or hundreds boundary, e.g. 234-236=202

  • …deals with times tables in a mechanical, parrot-like fashion, without any understanding of the logic behind them (they know that 5×5=25, but recite the entire 5x table from the beginning in order to answer 6×5)
  • …perceives 6:3= and 3:6= as the same sum
  • …struggles to explain the relationship between plus, minus and times
  • …finds it very difficult to estimate an approximate result

  • …has great difficulty with written division
  • …does not understand the rules of fractions, or continually mixes them up
  • …does not understand the significance of periods in decimal fractions and calculates that 1.6 + 1.6 = 2.12
  • …gets confused when dealing with equations

Connection to Calcularis

If the above list sounds familiar, using Calcularis can particularly help your child to overcome the struggles marked with green bullet points. Calcularis effective method helps to improve:

  • Number processing (bigger/smaller, estimation, writing of numbers)
  • Orientation on number line (addition/subtraction, feeling for correctness of results)
  • Automatisation (results in more concentration and being less tired)
  • Self concept (less anxiety)