Dyscalculia is still a relatively unknown disorder.  But awareness around this difficulty is slowly growing. Children with Dyscalculia find it difficult to understand numbers and their relationship. It is a developmental disorder that involves difficulty conceptualizing and performing mathematics. Has your child been diagnosed with Dyscalculia?  Here are some practical ways in which you can help.

Introduce the language of Math

We are often so busy teaching our children the vocabulary of the world, that we forget Maths has a vocabulary too.  How often do you use the words plus, minus, sum, halve, equal or divide when chatting to your toddler about every day things? It’s easier than you think.  Here are some examples: “If we cut this orange in half, we each get an equal portion”.  “Bring me your shoes, plus your socks and jacket.” “Let’s divide the sweets between us”.

For school age children it helps to get them to talk through a Maths problem. Make it practical.  6 x 5 might be difficult to understand.  But understanding that I have 5 friends who each need 6 party packs is easier to work out. Try to use synonyms when you can. For example when teaching subtraction, I’ll often use the term “take away”.

Make it visual 

Children may find it easiest to first recognize the number patterns on dominoes and dice. Later you can relate these to the more abstract Arabic numerals we use today. Some parents have also had success with introducing Roman numerals as an intermediary step.  Why would these different number systems work? Well, because you can count the lines representing most Roman numerals. And the numerals V and X slowly introduce the idea that numbers can be represented by symbols.  Like the ten symbols (1 – 10) we use today.

Say NO to Worksheets

Worksheets can be too abstract and 2-dimensional for kids with Dyscalculia.  It can also be rather boring sometimes. Instead, rather play games such as snakes & ladders, Monopoly, card games and Hopscotch.  These also reinforce math facts and with a little creativity they can be adapted for different ages. Games help to present math as fun challenges to solve instead of boring concepts to memorize. If you do have to use worksheets make sure that the instructions are very clear and easy to understand. Using coloured pencils when completing worksheets, may help your child more spot patterns in numbers. Follow our Math and Numeracy Pinterest board for lots of fun, creative maths activities.

Children with Dyscalculia work best with Manipulatives

The mathematics your child is required to do at school is rather abstract.  And important as it is for him to understand these abstract concepts, this is not a process that should be rushed.  Children can only understand abstract concepts once they’ve mastered these in a practical form.  Seeing and touching tangible objects will help your child better understand the abstract principles. Use Legos, blocks, beads or an abacus when introducing simple arithmetic.  And later on your child will learn to use his fingers to keep count.  Finally, he may be able to do it silently in his head.

Use Accommodations for Dyscalculia

A child who has been diagnosed with Dyscalculia may be eligible for various accommodations at school.  These may come in a variety of forms.  Some accommodations allow the teacher to circle keywords in math sentences on your child’s exam paper. Another is to allow the child to use a calculator. Writing exams in a separate room, having extra time or not having his maths marks contribute to his overall report card may all be considered.  The first step is to chat to your child’s teacher about the accommodations that may be allowed. And then to have your child assessed by an Educational Psychologist to see if he qualifies for these.


For kids, having Dyscalculia can be a real struggle and it’s important for this to be acknowledged at home as well as at school.  Remember to always start from a place where your child is comfortable and then slowly build it up. Praise and positive reinforcement goes a long way

For more information about helping your child with Dyscalculia, contact Anel Annandale at 021 423 0739 or via email at  anel@childpsych.co.za.