Numbers can cause a host of problems for schoolchildren

Dyscalculia - number blindness-  is an under-estimated problem
Dyscalculia - number blindness- is an under-estimated problem

Ask anyone if they’ve heard of dyslexia and the vast majority of people, if not all, will say they have.

Ask if they’ve heard of dyscalculia and most will say they haven’t.

Former primary school headteacher Kath Gleave, knows all about this- as she suffers herself.

Kath says: “When I trained, we had a fair amount of advice on how to identify and help children with dyslexia. Dyscalculia was never mentioned.

During my career, I saw many children displaying similar problems with learning maths that I could personally relate to.

I am dsycalculic, although never officially diagnosed. Compared to dyslexia, there has been very little research into this learning disability, so not as much is known about it.”

Lancashire teacher Kath Gleave, former headteacher of St Patrick's Primary School

Lancashire teacher Kath Gleave, former headteacher of St Patrick's Primary School

The Dyslexia Association has a section on their website which has a list of signs that can be indicators of dyscalculia.

However, Kath adds: “As with all learning disabilities, there is no definitive set of indicators - every child will have different elements and a lot more research needs to be done.

What is common, in my experience, is a very early realisation that they cannot learn and perform mathematical activities at the same speed and level as their peers.”

Learning the basic building blocks of maths like number bonds, doubling and halving and learning times tables are particularly problematic. This quickly leads to maths anxiety which can start very early on.

Playing gamnes can help children to cope with  number anxiety and dyscalculia

Playing gamnes can help children to cope with number anxiety and dyscalculia

According to Kath, a teacher of more than 20 years’ experience, latest demands that every child must learn their times tables by age nine “is tragic news for dyscalculic children”.

She warns: “Testing, especially timed tests are the worst nightmare; to hear children will be facing new online tests to examine their ability breaks my heart.

Dyscalculia pupils do not have the same understanding of number, lack an innate ‘feel’ for numbers, symbols are often meaningless.

It is stated that between four and six per cent of the population have dyscalculia but Kath feels this estimate is inaccurate due to the “lack of available, reliable testing, lack of knowledge and difficulty with diagnosis”.

The former head is doing independent research into dyscalculia and maths anxiety and has completed a short online awareness training course and says the earlier the problem is spotted the better.

There is no ‘quick fix’ and if you are dyscalculic you always will be.

But, says Kath, there are, however, ways to minimise the difficulty.

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