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Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Every day we are faced with mathematical problems. We need to read clocks, estimate times and do some arithmetic to make sure we are not late to appointments. We need to measure ingredients and estimate sizes. We need to do quick mental arithmetic when shopping, and read charts to make sure we don't speed.

Dyscalculia is more than being a bit slow to pick up mathematical skills. Or being a bit slow with mental arithmetic because you haven't practiced enough, or have used a calculator too much.

Dyscalculia is a life-long learning disability that effects your ability to learn and develop mathematical skills, including those basic skills used in everyday life.

What are the signs?

Some of the signs of dyscalculia as listed by SPELD and Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, 2008 include:

  • Difficulty learning mathematical terms and concepts
  • Difficulty identifying numbers, signs and symbols
  • Difficulty with basic functions such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
  • Difficulty remembering number facts, times tables and formulae. This can also translate into difficulties remembering scores in sport.
  • Difficulty writing down working or an answer to written and numerical maths problems, including reversals, difficulty lining up numbers in correct columns, confusion over directionality and an inability to translate thoughts into symbols.
  • Difficulty reading written Maths problems.
  • Difficulty with reading time and time management.


As for dysgraphia, dyscalculia is linked to processing difficulties. Visual processing difficulties lead to reversals and confusion over numbers and symbols. Language processing difficulties lead to struggles with the language associated with maths, which in turn effects the child's ability to learn the mathematical concepts. Sequencing difficulties effect the person's ability to follow through with the logical processes involved in Maths.

In the next posts we will look at some ways we can help children who have been diagnosed with dyscalculia and dysgraphia.


Eberly College of Arts and Sciences (2008). Dyscalculia. Retrieved 28/09 from

SPELD (2008). What is Dyscalculia. Retrieved 28/09 from


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ask Amanda: Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia

Not too long ago a parent asked me to blog about Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia. They were wondering what these labels meant, and what could be done to help their child.

Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia can be diagnosed alongside Autism Spectrum Disorders and Attention Deficit Disorders. Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia are neurological disorders that effect the way people learn literacy and numeracy skills (NINDS, 2009; SPELD, 2008).


Dysgraphia is demonstrated in a person's significant difficulty with written expression - handwriting, spelling and structuring a piece of written work.

Children with dysgraphia generally have difficulty with processing and sequencing information (Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, 2008). They may also have auditory, language and visual processing difficulties as well.

Information processing difficulties mean that children find it difficult to transfer what they are thinking onto paper. This can be because they find it hard to store the information long enough in their working memory to go through the physical process of writing it letter-by-letter, word-by-word. So what is a complex, creative story in their head, may come out as a jumble of random words and/or sentences on paper.

Sequencing difficulties mean that they find it hard to use the conventions of writing, like spelling and grammar. Proficient writers are able to spell "automatically" as they remember patterns of letters and shapes of words, thus not having to really pay attention to each individual letter in a word. This frees up a lot of working memory so that they are able to write fluently and focus on making meaning rather than spelling. For children with sequencing difficulties, it means that they will struggle to make meaning because they have to focus to much on each letter.

The same goes for grammar. Proficient writers most of the time use grammatical patterns without having to actually think about it. But children with sequencing difficulties will struggle to put their ideas on paper as well as follow the conventions of writing.

For children with auditory processing difficulties, they will struggle to use sounds to help check spelling. For children with language processing difficulties, who may think in pictures or concepts rather than words, it will be very difficult to translate their ideas into writing. For children with visual processing difficulties, it would be very difficult for them to use visual cues such as the shape of letters and words.

A Sample

You can see a sample of writing from a child with dysgraphia at

Next time... I will discuss Dyscalculia...

Links used in this blog post:


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