Dyscalculia is one of the more problematic of special needs. So how can we best understand it?

It has taken a long time for dyscalculia to become recognised as a significant special need that should be considered as a possibility whenever a pupil or student is thought to be performing in maths at a level considerably below that which might otherwise be expected.

The growing understanding of dyscalculia has been hampered by an occasional lack of awareness of the varied ways in which dyscalculia can express itself within a pupil or student’s behaviour.

This is rather different from dyslexia where a recognition of the genetic disorder can on occasion be more readily spotted.

The specific problem with dyscalculia originates in the nature of maths itself.  Maths is, of course, the ultimate logical subject, with each element building on what has gone before.

At its simplest, if a child fails to grasp (for example) the essence of addition, then it is unlikely that the child will make much sense of multiplication. A child who doesn’t grasp division will have a hard time with fractions, and so on.

As a result of this, a pupil or student who fails to make progress in school in maths might not be making the progress because he/she has dyscalculia, but also might not be making progress because the child was absent for a prolonged period during the teaching of specific concepts in maths and has never had a chance to catch up.

Such an issue can be complicated by the attitude towards maths of the child’s parents. If the parents find maths hard going, or worse, if one of the parents takes the view that, “I was never any good at maths and it never harmed me” (or the variant – “what do you need maths for – you’ve got a computer haven’t you?”), then the child also starts to turn against maths and fails to apply him/herself.

But this is only the start of the problems with dyscalculia, because it turns out that issues such as problems with the transference between the short and long term memory can also cause dyscalculia-like difficulties.

In a recent article Tony Attwood, head of the Dyscalculia Centre which has undertaken diagnostic tests on over 1000 pupils and students suspected of carrying the gene variant that causes dyscalculia, outlined five different formulations of dyscalculia.

This article which originally appeared in SEN Magazine has now been updated and re-published on the Centre’s website here. It gives a clear indication of what the five types of dyscalculia are, and how they can be readily identified.

How to develop positive behaviour and erase bullying at playtimes and lunchtimes

Spiritual, moral, social and cultural development happens all the time. In the class, in the playground, in the home.

The problem is that when left to their own devices during playtimes and lunchtimes, some of the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development that one sees is not necessarily what one wants to see.

In short, while some children will play in a very positive way, some use playtime and lunchtime to learn how to be bullies.  And sadly, because they find they like the feelings they get from bullying, they continue to do it.

Thus while others work together, mutually acknowledging the rules of their own games, helping and supporting each other and gaining much from the experience, for others the learning that happens is exactly what we don’t want to happen.

A straightforward way to enhance positive play in the school grounds is to teach the children one game a week which they can then work on together.  Some games will catch on and become continuing favourites. Others by the nature of things will fade after a few days.

If the games can then be revealed to parents either by being put on the school’s website, or with the details described on the website or in hand outs, the impact of the game can be extended further and further.

The initial playing of the playground game by a group of children is always a highly rewarding experience. The sorting out of the rules, agreeing the fundamentals and, above all, working together are all basic to the development of the social aspect of each child’s life.

What’s more, many children will become enthused by the game, leaving those on duty with a much smaller number of potentially problematic situations to deal with.

PSHE in the Playground is a photocopiable book (also available on CD so that it can be loaded onto the school’s network) which incorporates enough games to last a full school year and includes games that are suitable for both key stage 1 and key stage 2 children.  Most games can be taught to children in a matter of minutes.

Because the book is copiable only one copy needs to be purchased for the book to be used by all teachers in the school throughout the year.

An extract from PSHE in the Playground, ISBN 978 1 86083 726 5, order code T1691EMN is available at http://www.pdf.firstandbest.co.uk/primary/T1691.pdf


  • Photocopiable report in a ring binder, £24.95 plus £3.95 delivery
  • CD with school-wide rights: £24.95 plus £3.95 delivery
  • Both the Ring Binder and the CD £31.94 plus £3.95 delivery
  • Prices include VAT.

You can purchase the report…

When ordering the book please quote the reference T1791EMN.