Specialised teaching for individuals with dyscalculia should be made widely available in mainstream education, according to a review of current research published in the journal Science.
Dyscalculia, a condition referring to those who struggle to comprehend basic maths, is believed by many to be just as common as dyslexia, with an estimated prevalence of up to seven per cent of the population. However, it remains less well known than dyslexia and has traditionally received far less attention in schools and from governments.
Recent research by teams across the world has, though, made significant contributions to our understanding of the condition, and may have profound implications for how schools educate and support those with dyscalculia. Researchers believe they have identified the essential neural network that supports arithmetic, and revealed abnormalities in this network in the brains of dyscalculic learners.
This research suggests that to help many dyscalculics comprehend maths it is important to strengthen their understanding of simple number concepts. This, it is claimed, can be achieved with appropriate specially designed teaching schemes, which can be supported by game-like software that adapts to the learner’s current level of competence.
“Results from neuroscience and developmental psychology tell us that dyscalculic learners need to practice far more number manipulation tasks than mainstream learners”, says Professor Diana Laurillard, a co-author of the paper from the Institute of Education, University of London. “Adaptive, game-like programs that focus on making numbers meaningful, emulating what skilled SEN teachers do, can help learners practice beyond the classroom and build the basic understanding they need to tackle arithmetic.”