On this page we look at the simple issue: what can parents do to help a child who has dyscalculia?
Our view is simple. If you have (or think you have) dyscalculia yourself, then sadly there is probably little that you can do to help your child.
And you need to remember that dyscalculia is a genetic illness – that means that it is passed from the parents to the child.
But – and this is important – dyscalculia is not passed on automatically. It can skip generations and it can also just suddenly appear in a child. So if you have got an average ability in maths (meaning you could pass Grade C GCSE with a suitable bit of revision), then yes, you can help your child providing one other factor is in place.
You need a suitable relationship between yourself and your son/daughter which allows you to work together without conflict.
If there is stress and tension between you and your child when you sit down and start working together, then helping your child overcome the dyscalculia is probably not going to be a success. Your child will probably be anxious because of his/her inability to do what most children can do – their maths. So this is not a situation where any more stress is needed.
This isn’t a reflection on you – I myself have advised hundreds of parents on the issue of working with their own child – and I always admit, that with one of my three children there was a period of several years in which we simply could not work together. All I could do was back off and wait. And I’m an educationalist – so I ought to be able to do it!
So we have two conditions that need to be met before you can help your own child overcome dyscalculia: you need to be reasonably able at maths yourself, and you need to be able to work harmoniously with your child for about ten minutes a day, six days a week.
If that is the case and you think your child might have dyscalculia, there are several options open to you.
First you might want to help your child yourself. If you know where you need to start with helping your child then we have a series of books containing activities that you can do with your child for ten minutes a day each day.
These activities come in a series of books which describe to you exactly what you do in each ten minute session. There are multiple activities teaching each point so if you child grasps the point quickly you can simply move on to the next teaching point.
But if you can’t help your child, what can you do?
Obviously the school may well be able to help, but if you feel that they are very overloaded with other demands, or if you decided to organise the test yourself because the school did not wish to be involved, there are two other routes you could explore. You might also find the article "When a school says it can’t help your dyscalculic child" helpful at this point.
First, you could bring in a private tutor. However here I would urge great caution, because there are many private maths tutors who are very good at helping children without dyscalculia gain good grades in maths, but who have no real understanding of dyscalculia. Their approach is to teach in the standard way but more slowly.
This invariably fails, and can cause more damage to the child I would advise that you ask the private maths teacher to show you the materials he/she uses and explain how they work for dyscalculic children. If there is any hint of using standard materials that are used with most children, I would strongly urge that you do not follow this approach.
Second you could ask a friend or neighbour. It is possible to help a child with dyscalculia by using our materials even if the person is not trained as a teacher. All you need is for the individual doing the teaching to be able to pass GCSE maths with a C or above, and for that person to be patient even when faced with the way the child seems not to understand things that are perfectly logical.
One other option you have is to have your child tested for dyscalculia and that information is here.
Testing can be very helpful but please always remember, testing for dyscalculia simply indicates if dyscalculia is the source of your child’s problems. It does not by itself solve the child’s problem.
When your child takes the on-line test, we will also send you back the materials that we think will help you (or your child’s teacher at school) work with your child to overcome this problem.
You can order by:
a) sending in a cheque payable to Websites and Blogs Ltd or
Tony Attwood C.Ed., B.A., M.Phil (Lond), F.Inst.A.M.