What is Dyscalculia?
Pronounced DIS-KAL-KOOL-EE-AH, ‘dyscalculia’ comes from Greek and Latin and means ‘counting badly’.
Developmental Dyscalculia is a specific learning disorder that affects 5-6% of the school population. This small group of pupils work significantly below their peers in math and are therefore not making age-appropriate progress. They process numbers differently from their typically developing peers and use a wide range of approaches: inefficient and laborious methods, rely on using their fingers whilst counting, unable to tell which of two numbers is larger, have difficulty estimating and use uneconomical methods to solve problems. No two children with developmental dyscalculia present the same profile of strengths and needs. Students with developmental dyscalculia show difficulties in the acquisition of core foundation number skills. It is therefore important to identify their Specific areas of Learning Difficulties (SpLD) so that a targeted and intentional intervention can be offered.
The developmental building blocks of acquiring, recalling and applying numbers in their symbolic and non-symbolic forms requires the efficient coordination of numerous cognitive and sensory pathways involved in supporting number development: working memory, auditory and visual processing, attention and visuospatial perception. Furthermore, pupils who present deficits or lesions within their cognitive and sensory systems find that this interferes with processing numbers.
Developmental Dyscalculia is often encountered in a variety of neurological and co-occurring disorders such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), developmental language disorders, dyslexia, epilepsy, and Fragile X syndrome. It is also prevalent with other biological conditions including Williams Syndrome, Autism, Turners Syndrome, Duchenne Muscular dystrophy, DiGeorge syndrome and foetal alcohol syndrome.
The process of supporting pupils with this condition requires great effort, patience and time, since their difficulties are developmentally mediated and are reliant on the their developmental history rather than a topic.
A pupil with pure dyscalculia presents their difficulties exclusively in processing numbers whilst in other subject areas they work like typically developing students.
It is important to differentiate dyscalculia from developmental dyscalculia and maths developmental delays. Environmental deprivation, poor teaching or a curriculum that is moving too rapidly may lead to math developmental delays.
Dyscalculia can arise as a result of a stroke or an injury and is known as acquired dyscalculia. Neuroscience research suggests that dyscalculic individuals have a specific neural deficiency in the intraparietal sulcus part of the brain and the cells in that part of the sulcus are either weak or damaged (Butterworth, 2012).
Research indicates that the acquisition, recall and application of arithmetic is both domain specific and domain general.
Puffin Math’s focus is on supporting pupils with developmental dyscalculia. Puffin Assessment’s strength lies in differentiating pupils with developmental dyscalculia from those with math developmental delays using the researched and validated NumberSenseMMR™ framework.
A label of developmental or math developmental delays serves no purpose if the pupil cannot be supported. Puffin Assessment offers signposts to Puffin Intervention and a trained interventionist can re-position the pupil’s number sense development and build arithmetical capacity.