Shows and conferences

Dyscalculia Assessment

Saturday 8th September 2018

Today, I was one of 20 specialist assessors for specific learning difficulties lucky enough to participate in the first CPD on dyscalculia assessment and reporting run by Professor Steve Chinn and Judy Hornigold for the Dyscalculia Association.

It was a packed day, with lots of opportunities for sharing experience and best practice, looking at assessment materials and reports and hearing about the latest research into dyscalculia, as well as hearing more about the historical development of our understanding of this specific learning difficulty.

Anyone who’s worked with me, read earlier posts and seen or used the infographics and resources I’ve shared before will know that making maths accessible to all is a subject close to my heart.

There is no current universally accepted definition of dyscalculia, so at present, UK assessors will typically work with one of these:

The National Numeracy Strategy (DfES, 2001)

Dyscalculia is a condition that affects the ability to acquire arithmetical skills. Dyscalculic learners may have 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.

It should be noted that this statement no longer appears on the DfE website, and that there is no longer any reference to dyscalculia.

DSM-5 defines Dyscalculia as a specific learning disorder, an impediment in mathematics, evidencing problems with:

  • Number sense
  • Memorisation of arithmetic facts
  • Accurate and fluent calculation
  • Accurate math reasoning.

The British Dyslexia Association is in the process of updating the dyscalculia information on their website in collaboration with Professor Chinn.

Their working definition is as follows:

Developmental Dyscalculia

Developmental Dyscalculia is a specific and persistent difficulty in understanding arithmetic and basic number sense. It may also affect retrieval of number facts and key procedures, fluent calculation, and interpreting numerical information. It is diverse in character and occurs across all ages and abilities. Dyscalculia is an unexpected difficulty in Maths that can cannot be explained by external factors.

  • Mathematics difficulties are best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, with dyscalculia at the extreme end of this continuum. It should be expected that Developmental Dyscalculia will be distinguishable from general mathematical difficulties due to the severity of difficulties with symbolic and non-symbolic magnitude, number sense and subitising.
  • Developmental Dyscalculia can often co-occur with other specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.


For other assessors, don’t worry, there will be plenty of opportunities to participate in future sessions. If you do get the chance to attend, I would recommend it.

For parents and teachers, check out the excellent information and resources available from Steve Chinn’s, Brian Butterworth’s and Cambridge University’s

For your nearest qualified specialist teacher assessor for dyscalculia and other specific learning difficulties, head to the patoss tutor/assessor index.

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