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Provided by Tony Attwood, chair of the Dyscalculia Centre

A lady writes in stating she wants to have a piece of paper saying she’s dyscalculic so that she doesn’t have to pass the maths test as part of the programme she is undertaking in her journey to become a teacher.

The governor of the state prison service in Arizona phones to ask how we are dealing with dyscalculia in England’s prisons, and how that knowledge might be used in the USA.

A retired gentleman phones to say he’s struggled with maths all his life and now in his retirement he would like to find out why.

A teacher writes to ask if there is a training course in dyscalculia for teachers who are teaching dyscalculic pupils and students.

An administrator at a London hospital writes to ask if they could use our on line test with a patient whose memory and ability has changed following head injuries suffered in a car crash.

These are just a few examples of the questions my colleagues and I get asked week by week, and I list them not to suggest that we are the world centre for information on dyscalculia - we certainly would never claim that - but to show the key issue with dyscalculia.   There is, in fact, a shortage of knowledge as to what dyscalculia is, how it affects sufferers, and what can be done about it.

As a small organisation with limited resources we know there is no way we can provide the facilities to answer all these questions, and so from the start we have  decided to  specialise.   As a result we now offer an on-line test which gives an indication (not, I stress, a diagnosis, but an indication) as to whether the individual suffers from dyscalculia, and we provide materials that teachers can use to help those with dyscalculia.

Thus our reports are not the equivalent of something that would be written by an educational psychologist after a one-to-one consultation, but they do contain guidance and suggestions.   And they come with materials that we believe will help the individual develop his/her mathematical abilities.

As with our colleagues who work with dyslexics, we believe that most people who are dyscalculic can be brought up to a level of understanding of number and maths that is adequate to get a Grade C GCSE in maths. The key point is to have either individual or very small group teaching, and to have materials which are written specifically with the dyscalculic person in mind.

This means the teaching of maths in a multi-sensory way using words, symbols, physical entities (we use counters but they can be toy cars or anything), and cut up pieces of paper.

Of course it doesn’t end there, for as we have found over the years there are variants on dyscalculia which can lead to the individual having particular problems with specific issues.  We find one of the most common of these special variants is time, for some, but not all, dyscalculics find telling the time, working out timetables and the like, incredibly difficult.

This in turn can relate to a problem in the link between the short term and long term memory, and after several years research, we’ve come up with a series of ways of helping people overcome any difficult they have with numbers in sequence.

It has been quite a journey since we set up the Dyscalculia Centre over 10 years ago, but I do think we’ve made considerable progress in terms of understanding how those who suffer from dyscalculia can be helped.  It’s not easy, and the individual sufferer can’t do it alone, but it can be done so that such a person can function within world of numbers that as individuals we are faced with on a daily basis.

There is more about our materials and our on-line test on our website at www.dyscalculia.me.uk - and materials can be ordered there,  or you can call 01536 399 011 if you have a specific enquiry.




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