Dyscalculia for Students
What is dyscalculia?
The official UK definition of dyscalculia is:
"Dyscalculia is a condition that affects the ability to acquire arithmetical skills. Dyscalculic learners may have difficulty understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers, and have problems learning number facts and procedures. Even if they produce a correct answer or use a correct method, they may do so mechanically and without confidence" (Department for Education and Science, 2001).
If you are dyscalculic, you might struggle with the size and order of numbers, judging time or dealing with money. You have probably hated everything to do with numbers all your life, and have poor self-esteem about them.
Dyscalculia is nothing to do with intelligence. It is part of the diversity of human beings: we are not all alike. But the label ‘dyscalculic’ can be useful. It enables you to get the right kind of support. You are as capable of getting a good degree as any other student.
Positive aspects of dyscalculia
focus on difficulties. Dyscalculic people often have strengths as well, such as:
- Strategic thinking
- Practical ability
- Love of words
- Intuitive thinking
Some problem areas
- Understanding place value
- Carrying out sums without a calculator
- Working out money
- Moving from concrete to abstract
- Following steps in a mathematical process
- Remembering what different signs/symbols mean
- Remembering formulae or theorems
- Recalling names, dates, times, phone numbers etc
- Reading and understanding maths books
- Feeling that nothing makes sense
- Relating printed questions to mathematical techniques
- Fluctuations in concentration and ability
- Increased stress or fatigue
- Anxiety and exasperation
If that sounds like you, there will be people at your university who can:
- Help you find out if you are dyscalculic
- Organise learning support for you.
They will be based in something called a Disability Unit or Learning Support Team, or a similar name.
At University you may need to remind people (such as lecturers) of what will help you. Dyscalculia often overlaps with dyslexia. Ask for dyslexia information at your university’s Disability Unit or equivalent.
Dyscalculia does not have to ruin your life - it may try to, and others may unwittingly help it to, but you can hold it at bay; you can even beat it if you have the right sort of support. Find out whether your university has a Maths Learning Centre or somewhere with a similar name.
Sources of further information
You can also look at the dyscalculia information on this web site for staff. There is an article there which goes into more detail about the nature of dyscalculia.