Creating resources to support awareness of developmental Dyscalculia and Mathematical Difficulties
Despite a similar prevalence to other commonly occurring learning difficulties, dyscalculia is less well known, making it difficult for practitioners to identify the best ways to support children.
11 July 2023
A large proportion of individuals struggle with mathematical learning. This includes approximately 6 percent of pupils in primary schools who are diagnosed with a mathematical learning difficulty, also referred to as dyscalculia. Understanding how best to support these pupils is essential, as good mathematical abilities have been linked to positive financial and physical outcomes, as well as improved mental health.
To fill this gap, Dr Jo Van Herwegen, Liz Herbert, Dr Laura Outhwaite and Unta Taiwo applied for Higher Education Innovation Funding to gain insight into practitioners’ understanding of dyscalculia and to co-produce resources to meet their needs.
The idea for the project first emerged after the team conducted a survey on neuromyths with teachers and other education practitioners. They found that practitioners tended to endorse several neuromyths or false beliefs about mathematical learning difficulties and dyscalculia. At the same time, Dr Herwegen was asked to deliver a series of seminars on dyscalculia for Education Scotland, showing that there was an appetite among teachers to learn more about the topic and how to support children struggling with mathematics learning.
There was a clear need for practitioners to have access to more resources about mathematical learning difficulties, but what was less clear was whether existing resources, like academic papers or book chapters, met the needs of practitioners.
The team first wanted to know if new resources on mathematical learning difficulties were really needed, by understanding if lack of knowledge and understanding of dyscalculia was a wide scale problem. They received Higher Education Innovation Funding to conduct focus groups around neuromyths and surveys with practitioners. The surveys helped them to get a better idea of what practitioners already knew, what they would like to know, what type of resources were most appealing to them, and how interested they were in the research around dyscalculia.
Through the focus groups, they also wanted to get a better idea of what best practice in supporting pupils with mathematical learning difficulties looks like. Based on the feedback from surveys and focus groups, the team created materials to add to a new toolkit on Dyscalculia and Mathematical Difficulties. Importantly, they wanted this to be an iterative process and for the toolkit to develop based on evolving needs. They gathered feedback from teachers about how to improve the toolkit and continue collecting feedback to further extend the resources being offered.
Impact and results
Some of the resources created from the project include a reading list, a toolkit on identifying dyscalculia called ADD Up, a video explainer, and a short course part of the UCL Centre for Inclusive Education’s offering of short courses on Developing Quality Inclusive Practice.
In the future, the team wishes to keep building upon what they’ve developed, both by continuing to develop the resources offered and through more research to gain insight into identifying and supporting children with mathematical learning difficulties. They are planning to conduct research on how dyscalculia is diagnosed and identifying risk factors, longitudinal outcomes of children with dyscalculia, and research looking into overlap with other learning difficulties, such as language or reading difficulties.
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