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Dyscalculia Challenges and Positives

What is Dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia affects our ability to understand and work with numbers. People with dyscalculia may struggle with basic adding and subtracting, reasoning problems (related to numbers), and understanding mathematical concepts. It’s not just a difficulty with maths – dyscalculia is a distinct neurodevelopmental condition that needs dedicated support and understanding.

Dyscalculia challenges

Number processing difficulties

Dyscalculia often manifests as difficulties with processing and manipulating numbers, making tasks such as mental arithmetic, counting, and solving mathematical problems challenging and frustrating.

Conceptual understanding

Individuals with dyscalculia may struggle to grasp abstract mathematical concepts, such as place value, fractions, and algebra, hindering their progress in mathematics education.

Time and space confusion

As we know from Doctor Who, wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey stuff can be tricky to understand, even for neurotypicals. Similarly, dyscalculia can involve difficulties with making sense of spatial relationships and temporal (time) concepts, impacting tasks such as reading analogue clocks, understanding maps, and following directions.

Memory issues

Dyscalculia may affect memory and retrieval of mathematical facts and procedures, making it difficult to recall multiplication tables, mathematical formulas, or steps in problem-solving strategies.

Low self-esteem and anxiety

Underpinning it all, persistent struggles with maths can erode self-esteem and confidence, leading to feelings of inadequacy, frustration, and anxiety about maths-related tasks and assessments.

Positives of dyscalculia

Visual and creative thinking

Many children and young people with dyscalculia demonstrate strengths in visual and creative thinking, approaching mathematical problems from unconventional angles and finding innovative solutions.

Practical problem-solving

Dyscalculic people may excel in practical problem-solving tasks that involve real-world applications of mathematical concepts, such as estimating quantities, budgeting, or measuring.

Resilience and persistence

Living with dyscalculia builds resilience and persistence – with the proper support – as individuals navigate challenges and setbacks in their mathematical learning journey with determination and tenacity.

Unique perspectives

Dyscalculia encourages us to solve a problem from a new angle, bringing in multiple elements to build diverse talents and strengths beyond traditional academic methods, enriching classroom discussions and collaborative learning experiences with diverse insights.


In navigating the complexities of dyscalculia, it’s essential to recognise both the challenges it presents and the positives it brings. By embracing neurodiversity and adopting inclusive approaches to maths education, we can create supportive environments where children and young people with dyscalculia can thrive and contribute their unique talents to society.