Identification for adults

More information for adults can be found at




Secondary level indicators

If a pupil is presenting a number of these difficulties, it is a clue that something is wrong and they are experiencing difficulties which will get in the way of them learning arithmetical skills.


Language and Memory

Primary level indicators

 1.Delay in counting. Five to seven year-old dyscalculic children show less understanding of basic counting principles than their peers (eg that it doesn't matter which order objects are counted in).

2. Delay in using counting strategies for addition. Dyscalculic children tend to keep using inefficient strategies for calculating addition facts much longer than their peers.

Pre-school level indicators

Preschoolers with dyscalculia may have trouble with maths skills like counting, sorting and organizing. For example:

Connecting symbols with numerical quantities- for example matching the number 3 to a plate with 3 biscuits on it

Sorting – grouping things by shape, size or colour

Time - difficulty appreciating the passage of time


Please be aware that the indicators listed in this column are only intended to be used as a checklist to provide a basic indication of whether or not an individual may be at risk of dyslexia. If you identify a cluster of difficulties and strengths, your next step should be to consult the school Special Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) so that appropriate and immediate support can be put in place (see Column 5: Signposting for further intervention / assessment)

Current research into dyscalculia

Dyscalculia can affect different aspects of maths ability- leading to a variety of math profiles. Karagiannakis and Cooreman (2014) have identified four areas or subtypes. Dyscalculic learners may have difficulty in all or maybe just one or two to these areas:

  1. Core Number
  2. Reasoning
  3. Memory
  4. Visual Spatial

1. Core Number

This particular sub type of dyscalculia will lead to difficulties with:

Co-occurring difficulties

Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) is an umbrella term used to cover a range of frequently co-occurring difficulties. SpLD affect the way information is learned and processed. They are neurological (rather than psychological), usually hereditary and occur independently of intelligence. 

A range of studies have indicated high levels of overlap between dyscalculia and other SpLD. This has led to the assertion by Kaplan (2001) that ‘in developmental disorders, co-morbidity is the rule, not the exception’.

What causes dyscalculia?

Researchers generally agree that dyscalculia is a brain-based condition. Several possible causes have been suggested:

Studies have shown that a learner with dyscalculia often has a sibling or parent with similar mathematical difficulties. So it is believed that dyscalculia is hereditary.

The impact of dyscalculia

The impact of dyscalculia is far reaching and can have a profound impact on daily life, especially work.

For example, some dyscalculic adults never learn to drive, because of the numerical demands of driving and map reading (although SAT NAVs can help a great deal here).

Dyscalculia can also lead to social isolation, due to an inability to be at the right place at the right time, or to understand the rules and scoring systems of games and sports.

It can have a severe impact on job prospects and promotional opportunities for those in work.

Definitions of dyscalculia

As with dyslexia, there is no single commonly accepted definition of dyscalculia. The Department for Education and Science (DfES) describes it as:

‘ … a condition that affects the ability to acquire arithmetical skills. Dyscalculic learners may have a difficulty understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers, and have problems learning number facts and procedures. Even if they produce a correct answer or use a correct method, they may do so mechanically and without confidence’


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