Dyscalculia and Dyslexia

A word about Dyscalculia and Dyslexia

According to Brian Butterworth, Dyscalculia is a severe lack of awareness of number, coupled with great difficulty in performing arithmetic tasks. Research and Diagnosis in the UK is still at a relatively early stage, I can recommend the writing of Jan Poustie (herself a sufferer) as an excellent start for the reader wishing to be able to “see the world through Dyscalculic eyes”, and for practical suggestions of how to cope.  ** the best book – Mathematical Solutions Part B is available from the author  (see comment below)

Butterworth  suggests that about 4% of the population may “have dyscalculia”. Looking at the bigger picture, it is clear to anyone working with maths education that a far larger proportion of the population struggle with aspects of Maths, and do not thrive on the traditional approach.

I prefer to see “number blindness” as a spectrum, on which some people are extremely fluent and comfortable with number, to the extent that they seem truly gifted, others struggle painfully, and the majority are somewhere in between, often feeling that they are worse than average, even if they in fact are right in the middle. I start work with every student assuming that they are “number-blind” until I see evidence to the contrary. This helps me to remember that, compared with a Maths teacher, most people are relatively number-blind. Unless you immerse yourself in number as much as a teacher probably has, you may not recognise high powers of two, multiples of large primes like 17, etc etc.

Many Dyslexics struggle with Maths, perhaps because of the extremely complicated processes required to carry out the high-end of arithmetic operations, such as pen and paper division. I am privileged to have worked with a handful of severely dyslexic students, who were very articulate about their learning styles and helped me to experiment with how to express Mathematical reasoning in a way that they could make sense of.  Poustie indicates that individuals may well be experiencing some degree of Dyslexia and Dyscalculia, together.

Labels such as Dyslexia and Dyscalculia are only helpful if you have some strategies for coping with them, and I tend to focus on the learner, the Maths, and the strategies, and not worry too much about labels.

I welcome feedback, please use the reply box.

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