Last updated: 03 Mar 2020

Dyscalculia is included in the range of neurodiverse differences. It is associated with difficulties in learning basic arithmetic and mathematics.

The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) estimates the prevalence of dyscalculia in the UK population is about 5% for formal diagnosis, but the figure for mathematical learning difficulties overall is much higher at 25%.

Dyscalculia is much more than having difficulties with learning arithmetic and mathematics; dyscalculic people also have difficulties understanding simple number concepts.

Some strengths and weaknesses of people with dyscalculia may include:

Strengths: Weaknesses:
Speaking, reading and writing Counting and maths problem-solving skills
Memory for printed words Reading numbers or recalling numbers in sequence

People who have dyscalculia are also likely to have dyslexia and/or ADHD. They also likely to be very hard-working and tenacious.

Individuals and their needs can differ considerably. As in society as a whole, many adults are highly skilled and perhaps highly qualified, while others may struggle.

Some people need additional support to build their skills and overcome barriers, while others may need relatively little support or adjustments to be able to effectively succeed in their career.

According to the BDA, typical symptoms of dyscalculia/mathematical learning difficulties include:

  • weak mental arithmetic skills
  • a poor sense of number and estimation
  • high levels of mathematics anxiety
  • no sense of whether any answers that are obtained are right or nearly right
  • being slow to perform calculations
  • forgetting mathematical procedures, especially as they become more complex – for example, ‘long’ division.

Impact on daily living

People with dyscalculia have problems reading numbers, whether they are associated with telephone numbers, public transport timetables, prices in shops, dates and times.

There will also be conceptual problems dealing with units of measurement, for example, weights, mileage etc. There may also be difficulties identifying clothes sizes, handling money, and confusion between left and right.

In the workplace

People with dyscalculia have problems remembering numerical formula, telephone numbers, dates and times etc. Therefore, it is important that mechanisms are in place to help the individual remember important events such as meeting dates and times.

Where numbers and figures are an important part of the job, reasonable adjustments might include the use of calculators, number grids and other visual aids. Voice recognition software and other assistive technology may also help.

See the BDA page on dyscalculia and The Dyscalculia Centre for an online test (there is a cost), research and FAQs.

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