Does your child have dyscalculia?Math Tutor
In 2016, Singapore students topped international ranking in reading, math, and science in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). This naturally creates an expectation that math is something that most children are able to do in Singapore.
In recent years, there have been much talk about learning difficulties. There has been a rising number of students being diagnosed with dyslexia, a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling.
What is Dyscalculia?
Dyscalculia is a learning difficulty in mathematics. People with this condition have difficulties in understanding simple number concepts, grasping numbers intuitively, and learning number facts and procedures. Currently, there is still little awareness in Singapore about this condition. According to research, dyscalculia affects between three to eight per cent of the population. Experts are still undecided on whether there are differences between the difficulties in math experienced by people with dyscalculia and those with other learning difficulties such as dyslexia. This is because it is often observed that the difficulties presented overlap each other.
According to Siti Aishah Shukri, senior educational therapist at the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS), mathematical difficulties are more complex than literacy ones because there is no single scale to measure learning difficulties in maths.
Checklist for detecting dyscalculia in children
Helmy Faber, an educational therapist and psychologist (MA Psychology/Adv Dip Sp Ed) specializes in teaching students who have dyscalculia from age 6 onwards. She has more than 10 years experience, and had published books such as “Maths Reference Book, for students with dyscalculia or math difficulties; including dyslexics”, and “Dyscalculia – a Mathematics Disorder- and math difficulties in Singapore”.
You may visit her website at www.dmdinterventions.com.
Her checklist, taken from here, is especially applicable for children between the ages of four to seven:
- poor number sense (unable to use different ways to calculate the same sum, difficulties with estimating and approximating small quantities without counting, or if a numerical answer is reasonable)
- having anxiety, avoidance and frustrations while doing mathematics
- difficulties with basic four operations in math (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division), with the lack of automaticity and inconsistent answers
- inability to notice patterns, or the concept of “more” and “less”
- still using fingers to count
- slow working pace, very slow at mental math
- difficulties understanding math concepts, rules, formulae and sequences
- forgets mastered mathematical skills easily, with poor retention and retrieval
- tuition does not seem to help
- low scores for exams (approximately <30 in primary school)
- significant difference between exam scores in math compared to other subjects
- difficulties in telling and keeping track of time
- may have excellent verbal skills
Very often, these difficulties are more pronounced when the children enter primary school. They will not enjoy playing games with elements of maths, especially in a social setting. While their peers will progress to addition with regrouping, they may still struggle with basic addition.
It is important for parents to go for early diagnosis so that early intervention may take place. DAS offers maths intervention classes for students with dyslexia from primary 1 to 6. The methodology applied is closely synchronised to the math syllabus of the mainstream schools, with the aim of bridging the gap between a student’s ability and the mainstream syllabus.