This page of the Dyscalculia Centre website provides information on the Report that is sent to those people who undertake the Dyscalculia Centre’s Test.
The Dyscalculia Centre test starts by asking the person taking the test to give their own opinion on their abilities within and reaction to maths in the area of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, percentages, shapes, and time.
The test then asks the individual to answer a range of questions in those same areas. The questions not only ask for an answer to a standard question such as 8 x 7 = but also seeks to explore the essence of number through more unusual questions.
We compare the results of the two parts of the test and also note the individual's age and time taken to do the test. From this we draw conclusions as to whether the individual is...
a) probably suffering from short term memory issues and thus unable to deal with many maths problems as they are not able to hold numbers in their head for long enough to complete a calculation
b) lacking in a fundamental understanding of what numbers mean and how the basics of maths work
c) solving maths issues through their own strategies which get around their own problems caused by dyscalculia - this can be revealed, for example, through the time taken to do the test
d) lacking an understanding of a specific area of maths-related work. For example, an individual may have managed, through hard work and the development of their own strategies, to cope with basic division, but becomes completely lost with fractions, due to a lack of understanding of the nature of maths at this point. Some are able to calculate issues such as "what is 25% of 95?" without having the slightest notion of what the question means.
From all of this we draw a conclusion as to whether the individual is dyscalculic, and we give our view on this in the report.
The report, which generally runs to five or six pages of A4 also includes recommendations of activities that the individual might do with a friend, assistant teacher, parent, etc, to help develop the STM/LTM interface. We then also forward a set of activities which can take a month or two, which again can be undertaken with a parent or assistant teacher or friend. These are based around the work that we believe that the individual needs in order to make progress.
The activities we provide are multi-sensory and do not reflect the classic methods of teaching maths, but are geared around the particular approach we believe is needed by the individual to help overcome the problem.
As the above makes clear, we are not so much measuring the individual’s ability in maths, but rather looking for clear indications of the genetic disability dyscalculia. A dyscalculic person may well be able to undertake maths calculations, just as a dyslexic person can learn how to spell complex words which may be spelled wrongly by a non-dyslexic person - because they have been supported in this, or because they have evolved their own approaches. We seek to understand exactly what is going on, and then provide suitable materials to help the individual progress further.
Thus the results should not be seen in the context of a set of maths tests based against the national average and hence normed against these averages, for such an analysis does not indicate dyscalculia (given that an individual might be poor at maths for all sorts of reasons). We aim to find the areas of difficulty that the individual has, and to supply materials that help them overcome these problems.
A typical report might note (in extract) for example that in the first part of the test the individual reported a large number of worries and concerns that he/he has with maths. We present these by area, with specific examples. The areas include focus issues, finding specific elements with maths very difficult (eg problems with times tables, not understanding "odd" and "even", sequencing issues, the use of strategies, anxiety over maths, trouble working with time. We then examine how this relates to the actual answers given, and how in turn this relates to the deeper knowledge of maths. This helps us find if there are patches of knowledge where maths has successfully be learned mechanically, rather than in regards to the underlying logic of maths.
For example (and this is just one example - we don't draw deep conclusions on just one example of course) we have the question
¼ + ¼ + ¼ + ¼ =
The answer 1 is obviously correct. 4/4 as an answer tells us that the individual knows the mechanism of adding fractions but is not translating this into meaning in the real world. 1/16 suggests that there is some grasp that not everything is added in fractions, but a complete confusion as to what is going on. And so on.
This leads back to the most fundamental point. A person might be very poor at maths because of dyscalculia or because of poor teaching, missed schooling, parental attitude ("I was never any good at maths and it never did me any harm") etc etc. We are looking to differentiate the cause of the problem, rather than simply say, "this person is in the bottom quartile for his/her age". Having done that, we then offer materials and methods for putting the matter right. In doing this we do, as you mention, highlight the strengths and weaknesses, and offer materials relevant to the weaknesses.
Tony Attwood C.Ed., B.A., M.Phil (Lond), F.Inst.A.M.