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Help for parents

If you are the parent of a child who is, or you believe might be, dyscalculic, this page should help you.

If you are starting this page by thinking that you need your child assessed for dyscalculia please do read through these notes rather than moving straight on to ways of getting your child assessed.

These notes take you through the following steps:

  1. Working with your child’s school
  2. Working with a private tutor
  3. Teaching your child yourself
  4. Resources that are available for you, for the tutor and for the school.

Step 1: Working with your child’s school

All local authority schools, free schools and academy schools have a duty to meet the special needs requirements of the children in their school.  This is laid down in the Equality Act 2010.   There is a government web site covering the relationship between schools and the Equality act and if you are looking at this, you might be particularly interested in Chapter 4.

But if you don’t want to plough through that long document, you might find what is written here to be particularly helpful.

The fact is that if you can get your school’s help, this is normally the most effective route to solving the problem of dyscalculia.

However, although many schools are willing to help, not all schools feel able to do so, and they may argue that your child has no special need or that they have no legal obligation to help.   This is where a knowledge of the Equality Act comes in.

The only definitive way to resolve this issue is to have your child tested by an educational psychologist. But before you go down this route, please do note the following:

  1. It will cost you several hundred pounds if you refer a child to an educational psychologist yourself.
  2. Even with an educational psychologist’s report some schools refuse to act, saying that the report is “just one person’s opinion – our view is different”.
  3. Even if the school does accept the report, they might well take a year to set up any sort of provision for your child.
  4. If you do challenge the school, you are setting yourself at odds with your child’s school, and that might not be in the long term interest of your child.

So we suggest first of all that you go to the school, suggest that your child might have particular problems with maths because of the inherited genetic issue known as dyscalculia, and ask if they can help.  Our view is you should only mention that you know about the Equality Act if you get absolutely stuck.

Try to talk to the Special Needs Co-ordinator (known as a the SENCO in many schools), or the head or deputy head or head of maths – whomever seems the best person to approach. If the school says, “yes we know about this and we have materials,” then you have your solution. 

But if the school says, “we’ve never come across this before”, you might like to refer them to our materials. They are described on www.shop.firstandbest.co.uk - there is a link on the left side called Dyscalculia – schools.

Of course the school may prefer to buy materials elsewhere – that is a matter for them.  Our materials are in use in over 2000 schools in the UK, but each teacher does need to be happy with his or her own choice.

But if your chosen school refuses to co-operate...

Very, very few schools break the Equality Act on purpose, but sometimes an individual teacher or manager in the school might forget just what the Act says.

In essence the Equality Act means that schools cannot discriminate against pupils because of their sex, race, disability, religion or belief or sexual orientation.
The law on disability discrimination is different from the rest of the Act and in essence it means that schools are allowed to (and indeed should) treat disabled pupils more favourably than non-disabled pupils, and in some cases are required to do so, by making reasonable adjustments to put them on a more level footing with pupils without disabilities.
The Act makes it quite clear that schools do not have to go to any length to meet the requirements of a disabled pupil or student (for example a school in a Victorian building could argue that it is simply not viable to widen every door and install lifts for a wheelchair bound student, especially if such changes could affect the very fabric of the building).  But when it comes to supplying teaching resources which are readily available and low cost, it is virtually impossible to make this argument.

Our experience is that if a school is utterly obdurate in relation to this matter, it can sometimes work if you write in a calm and measured way to the chair of the governors and a copy to the head saying, “Section 4.3 of the Equality Act seems to suggest absolutely clearly that you do have an obligation to provide this education.  I appreciate that you are saying this is not the case, but it would help me resolve this matter if you could just let me know what part of the Equality Act you are citing to show that you don’t have an obligation in this regard.”

If the school doesn’t reply, write again to both the chair of the governors and the head after a week.  They should at the very least acknowledge you and tell you when they are going to reply.

Most schools will realise that they are dealing with a person who knows the law, and will back off, rather than fight the case.  

2.  A private tutor

It is a sad fact that in Britain today there are very few private tutors who specialise in dyscalculia.  Indeed this is the reason why the Dyscalculia Centre has focussed on producing materials (via the Activity Books) which can be used by parents or family and friends at home.

Indeed the Activity books and associated materials from the Dyscalculia Centre can be used by anyone who has an equivalent of O Level maths or GCSE “C” in maths and who is happy to work with a dyscalculic person.

If you are unable to find such a person then the next step could be to approach any private tutors of maths in your area or (for the under 11s) private tutors specialising in primary school work, and show them a copy of the materials and ask them if they would be willing to work through the materials in the Activity Books.

But it is important to remember that the standard process of teaching maths is not only very unlikely to help a dyscalculic person, it can also do considerable harm.  As dyscalculia is comparatively rare, it is quite common to find maths tutors who know nothing of dyscalculia and who insist that their standard approach will work for all children.  Our advice is that care should be taken if faced with this situation.

It is also important to remember that working with a child for ten minutes a day five days a week is far better than having the child work with a private tutor once a week.  Progress with a private tutor working for half an hour or even an hour once a week is likely to be far, far slower than the progress that can be achieved by a parent or friend working with the child for ten minutes a day five days a week.

If however you do find a tutor and want to use our methods, the tutor should be directed towww.shop.firstandbest.co.uk and then the link on the left side to Dyscalculia – wherein all our materials are shown.

3.  Helping your child yourself

You don’t need a degree in maths to be able to help your child yourself – but you do need to be at ease with basic maths.  So if you have never been able to understand fractions or long division, it is probably not a good idea to try working with your child.  Dyscalculia is an inherited problem, so if your child has it, there is a chance you may have it.

However, leaving that issue aside, if you feel you are able to work with your child yourself, you will need to set aside ten minutes a day (either before or after school) at least five days a week.

The key thing is to do the work with your child day after day, missing out as few days as possible.  If your child learns a musical instrument you will know what this is like – if the practice is occasional, it simply doesn’t work.

The books listed below will give you all the information you need to work with your child each day.

4. The resources
Here is a list of the resources that you will need as a parent and which can be used by private tutors.  These books consist of simple activities for you to carry out with your child.  Each set of instructions is normally just three or four lines long.

The activity books…

Dyscalculia activities 1: addition to division  (Ref number T1687)
This book is intended for children who find the basics of maths complex and confusing.  The volume starts with the fundamentals of number and simple addition, and concludes with long division.

Dyscalculia activities 2: shapes, fractions, percentages  (Ref T 1719)
This volume assumes that the child knows how to complete long division problems successfully, and moves on to the properties of various shapes, and the issues surrounding fractions and percentages.

Dyscalculia activities 3: Time and timetables (Ref 1712)
Dyscalculia activities 3 deals exclusively with issues relating to time, which often cause particular problems for dyscalculic children.  You should use this book if other areas of maths are secure, but time (for example the sequence of months in the year, reading timetables and calendars etc) remains a particular problem.

Other resources

You will also need the following to carry out the activities in book 1.

  1. A set of coloured counters, of the type used in the classic Ludo game.
  2. A set of cards measuring about 3 inches by 2 inches.

These can also be purchased from ourselves via the online shop. Throughout you will also need to have a pair of scissors, paper and some card.

Buying the books, cards and counters

Sample pages of the books can be viewed by clicking on the links below:
Dyscalculia Activities 1
Dyscalculia Activities 2
Dyscalculia Activities 3

You can order these books, either as books or on a CD, and the cards and counters:

  1. At the on-line shop.
  2. By phone with a credit card to 01536 399 011
  3. By fax with a credit card to 01536 399 012
  4. By post with a cheque or credit card details to Hamilton House Mailings, Earlstrees Ct., Earlstrees Rd., Corby, Northants NN17 4HH