New Guidance: Understanding Children and Young People with Mathematical Difficulties

The purpose of this guidance is to outline Devon Local Authority’s approach to meeting the needs of children and young people with severe and persistent mathematical difficulties. It provides clarity on the use of the term ‘dyscalculia’ and aims to support schools in:

  •  the early identification and assessment of children experiencing mathematical difficulties
  •  understanding the factors affecting mathematical development
  •  supporting children’s mathematical learning
  •  accessing additional support and advice
  •  understanding their responsibilities in meeting the needs of these children.

This document draws on current research into mathematical difficulties and in particular guidance and summaries of research outlined in Dr Ann Dowker’s ‘What Works for Children with Mathematical Difficulties’ (2009).

Devon Local Authority takes the view, based on current published research, that:

  •  Mathematics is not a single, unitary ability at which children are either good or bad, but is rather made up of a range of interacting component skills.
  • A psychological model which recognises the plasticity of the brain throughout life and the importance of wider, interacting environmental factors is helpful in promoting change.
  • There is no one reliable test of mathematical difficulties. Rather, assessment should take place over time and involve careful evaluation of the pupil’s responses to teaching and targeted interventions.
  • It is more helpful to focus on the early identification of a child’s individual strengths and difficulties with maths and then to find the most appropriate way to provide support than it is to seek to label these difficulties.
  • Educational settings have a responsibility to identify specific strengths and weaknesses of individual children or young people and investigate particular misconceptions and incorrect strategies they may have. Interventions should be targeted toward an individual child’s or young person’s particular difficulties.