How Can I Tell If My Child Has Dyscalculia?

Reading Time: 4 minutes
This question is one that is becoming more and more common. Parents naturally worry when they see their child struggle with maths concepts and, now that research is improving and developing in this field, we are more aware of the condition known as dyscalculia.
How do I know if my child has Dyscalculia? What is it?
Most people have heard of Dyslexia, where children experience problems related to reading and spelling, but Dyscalculia is not as well known or as well understood. There is much less research on Dyscalculia, but we do know that it is a life-long condition where someone finds difficulty performing maths related tasks. This could be as simple as estimating the number of spots on a page, or the length of a line.
Does your child get frustrated, or even angry, doing maths homework? Do they always find even the simplest maths ideas really challenging? Do you find yourself showing them how to do the same thing over and over again, week after week? This could be a sign that your child may have Dyscalculia.
I have been a teacher and tutor for over 25 years, and over the course of my career, I have worked with children who displayed many dyscalculic tendencies. It can be very difficult to cope, especially in teenage years.
How can we tell if it is really dyscalculia and not just maths anxiety? Children can be anxious about maths, especially if they see parents display anxiety over maths. Dyscalculia is different and there are many signs to watch out for.
Signs to look out for
Dyscalculic kids at preschool level may not be able to recognise patterns or count simple objects. They struggle with concepts like big and small, and even with number recognition.
The signs become more obvious as they enter primary school, when children start to master the addition ans subtraction facts. Children with dyscalculia will struggle to recall simple things like 5+2=7, or even what the arithmetic symbols + and – mean. Real life maths is difficult for them, as is comparing amounts within problem solving and using written calculation methods correctly.
As they grow, so do the issues. When mastering number facts, most children can easily use the rules of commutativity to see that 2 x 5 is the same as 5 x 2. This makes learning the multiplication tables easier. However, this essential skill is very difficult for children with dyscalculia to grasp.
Teenagers with dyscalculia face great difficulty coping with the demands of the subject of maths, where they are often expected to read and interpret information on charts and graphs. Understanding algebra and abstract concepts at this level of schooling makes life very difficult for children with dyscalculia.
Life-long problem
Beyond the classroom issues also arise. Dyscalculia will result in children – and adults – having trouble with life skills such as handling money effectively to pay for goods while shopping, measuring ingredients to follow a simple recipe or compare capacity of containers. Planning trips can also be problematic. Dyscalculic people have problems understanding anything involving speed, distance and directions. Following maps or directions from one place to another may end up with them getting lost.
If you’re concerned your child may have dyscalculia, screening is a first step. Our screening test can be carried out with pupils aged 6-14 years+ and, on completion, it recommends intervention strategies to help them achieve their potential. You can complete this test in person at our centre in Donegal, or online through a video call, or you can receive a link by email to complete the test independently online at your own convenience. The test takes around 30 minutes to complete and is ideal if your child is showing some signs of difficulty. It can help distinguish between a child who has poor maths attainment an those whose difficulties are associated with Dyscalculia. The screening test gives us a true picture of your child’s ability with numbers by checking on their understanding of number size, simple addition and simple multiplication. The Dyscalculia screening test is completed online and there are four subsets within the screener.
Find out more
If you would like to find out more about what the screening test looks like, please watch this video I made, showing how the test works and what is included in it.
If you would like to book a screening test or find out more about how Emerald Education Centre can help children who have difficulty in maths, whether it is through poor attainment, maths anxiety or if your child has dyscalculia, please visit the website or email me at

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