St Davids College

Avenue of oaks in american south P292 R6 U

Dyscalculia - Weakness in Maths

Dyscalculia is a specific and persistent difficulty in understanding numbers which can lead to a diverse range of difficulties with mathematics. This specific learning difference (SpLD) can also impact on other areas of learning.

In the Cadogan Centre, we focus on core numeracy and practical mathematical skills. We use multisensory techniques to suit our learners’ specific needs and adapt our provision to consider difficulties caused by Dyslexia or other Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD). Often our learners have moved from the concrete to the abstract too quickly without real understanding, they may have difficulties with recalling facts from long-term memory or they may struggle with mathematical language. Some pupils’ learning in Maths may be affected by their SpLD, it may be due to Maths Learning Difficulties or they may have Dyscalculia (a math learning difficulty that impairs an individual’s ability to represent and process numerical data in a typical way).

We have teachers who specialise in maths learning difficulties and dyscalculia, and we use a range of screening and assessment tools to refine our interventions for these pupils.

We look at a wide range of pupil data and information, consult class teachers and discuss with pupils to find gaps in their prior learning. Often these are very early gaps, and this is where our interventions will start. Providing a different way of learning at a pace to match the learner, we seek to ensure maths concepts are more deeply understood, rather than memorised. We do not advocate rote learning or timed tests. Instead we help pupils investigate core number relationships, make meaningful connections with other areas of maths and experience success in learning to problem-solve.

Helping them to improve in these practical skills boosts their confidence and enables access to the whole curriculum, as well as improving their learning in maths.

One of the online platforms we use is Dynamo Learning, a website created to screen for and support those with Dyscalculia. We have a specially written assessment of cross-curricular skills (following consultation with colleagues in different disciplines) that helps us to focus on how to improve a pupil’s achievement across the board. For example, many pupils have great difficulty in reading two-way tables or reading graphs and charts, both of which are used across the curriculum.

Similarly, a wide range of pupils have difficulty using mathematical instruments effectively. We carefully teach children to use rulers, protractors, compasses, multiplication grids, calculators, scales and clocks.

Our top tips for parents and pupils:

  • Encourage mathematical talk, questions, vocabulary use, investigation and independent research into problems. Play games with dominoes, dice, cards and any other numbers to encourage mental maths.
  • Try not to pass on any negative emotions you may have about Maths, such as saying “I was never any good at it”. Children soak up the attitudes of influential adults around them, yet it is difficult to succeed in Maths without a positive and openminded mindset and the willingness to persevere.
  • Be positive, even when children make mistakes or find a wrong solution. Discuss how they found their solution and encourage them to try a different approach or idea. Learning is strong when mistakes occur, but it can be disheartening so encourage a resilient, determined attitude.
  • A good quiet space at home to do homework, with mathematical equipment and resources is important. It implies you believe in their ability to do and succeed in Maths. If you are looking over their work or giving help, be positive and encouraging.
  • Avoid putting pupils ‘on the spot’ to answer maths questions quickly, especially in public. Do not expect them to answer questions on material they haven’t
  • covered in class yet. This can lead to unnecessary maths anxiety and family rows. Many pupils with SpLD have difficulties with working memory or retrieving facts from long-term memory; this doesn’t make them bad at Maths. Pupils should be encouraged to take time in solving problems or working out a fact they do not know.
  • Take every opportunity to share with pupils the usefulness of maths in everyday life and in your working life. Understanding the usefulness of maths increase intrinsic motivation to learn maths.
Learning is strong when mistakes occur but it can be disheartening; try and encourage a resilient and determined attitude in your child.

Expert advice for parents:


Dr Jo Boaler is a former Maths teacher and is currently Nomellini & Olivier Professor of Education at Stanford University. She formed to give teachers, parents and pupils the resources they need to excite pupils about mathematics. She was named by the BBC as one of the 8 educators “changing the face of education.”

Her top tips for parents can be found here:


Steve Chinn PhD FRSA is a former Maths teacher and is a visiting professor at the University of Derby, UK. In 1981 he was appointed as Head of a new secondary school for dyslexic boys, where he found that dyslexia seemed to impact significantly on the way pupils learned, and often failed to learn maths. Chinn has become a pioneer teacher and researcher in the field of Maths Learning Difficulties and Dyscalculia. He has written award winning books and resources, founded an award-winning specialist school and lectured/trained teachers in 30 countries.

His top tips for those supporting pupils with maths difficulties are here: