It is not uncommon for children to struggle with maths at some point during their schooling. However, children who experience maths difficulties at a greater level than their peers may have Specific Learning Disorder with Impairment in Mathematics (also referred to as dyscalculia). This diagnosis refers to a pattern of difficulties characterised by problems processing numerical information, learning arithmetic facts, performing accurate calculations, and reasoning with mathematical concepts.
Assessing for maths difficulties
As with any other learning difficulty, there is no single test that can be used to diagnose maths difficulties. A comprehensive assessment that evaluates overall intellectual functioning, maths-related skills, and other areas of thinking (such as attention, working memory, visual-spatial processing, and memory) is required to characterise the nature and severity of maths problems. This allows for interventions to be developed that are tailored to the individual’s specific strengths and weaknesses. A comprehensive assessment is also necessary to rule out other factors that may be contributing to maths difficulties. For example, intellectual disability, dyslexia, ADHD, and visual processing disorders can all impact on a child’s ability to perform accurate calculations.
Maths difficulties at different ages
Maths difficulties vary across individuals and often look different at different ages. Although symptoms can be present from preschool, maths difficulties tend to become more noticeable as the child gets older and maths becomes a major part of the school day.
What to look for:
- Has trouble learning to count.
- Struggles to recognise patterns, such as smallest to largest or tallest to shortest.
- Has trouble recognising numbers.
- Struggles to connect a number to an object, such as knowing that “3” applies to groups of things like 3 cakes, 3 cars, or 3 friends
- Has difficulty learning and recalling basic math facts, such as 2 + 4 = 6.
- Struggles to identify +, – and other signs, and to use them correctly.
- Still use fingers to count instead of using more advanced strategies, like mental maths.
- Finds it difficult to understand maths phrases like greater than and less than.
- Has trouble writing numerals clearly or putting them in the correct column.
- Struggles to recognise that 3 + 5 is the same as 5 + 3.
- Has trouble keeping score in sports or games.
- Has trouble with fractions and with measuring things, like ingredients in a simple recipe.
- Struggles to apply math concepts to money, including estimating the total cost and making exact change.
- Struggles to understand information shown on graphs or charts.
- Has trouble finding different approaches to the same mathematical problem.
- Struggles to learn and understand reasoning methods and multi-step calculation procedures.
- Lacks confidence in activities that require understanding speed, distance and directions, and may get lost easily.
If any of these signs rung true for you or your child we encourage you to BOOK IN with our to see our resident psychologist Daniéll Siderowitz. Dani can provide comprehensive assessments using standardised evidence-based assessment tools to reach a diagnosis of the problems.
Or contact us on: 02 9139 0126