## Dyscalculia at work: is discrimination lawful?

By Tony Attwood C.Ed., B.A., M.Phil (Lond), F.Inst.A.M.

Under the Equalities Act, it is illegal to discriminate against an individual at work because of his or her special needs - such as dyscalculia.

However there are some exceptions to this. The two most important exceptions are a) practicalities and b) the essence of the work.

**PRACTICALITIES AS A REASON FOR DISCRIMINATION**

In this regard we may imagine an office block built some years ago, which has doorways that are narrower than those in contemporary buildings, and through which a wheelchair may not fit. It would be seen to be unreasonable to demand that the employer has to find a way to enlarge the doorway or move buildings, to be able to employ a disabled person in a wheelchair.

Similiarly if the offices were established on the first floor of the building, which is only accessible by stairs, there being no lift, it would be considered unreasonable to make the employer install a lift.

**THE ESSENCE OF THE WORK**

If we consider an accountant, it is reasonable for the accountant to expect employees to have a reasonably high level of maths to be able to undertake the day to day work of the office, and to be able to converse with clients about their accounts.

The argument that one cannot do the maths because one is dyscalculic, would not be accepted because the maths is of the essence in relation to the work.

**A SIGN OF A GOOD ALL ROUND EDUCATION**

Some universities, colleges and employers ask for their employees to have a certain grade of maths GCSE or other exams to show that the individual has an all round education, and is not just proficient in one or two subjects.

If there will be no use of this level of maths in the course, this would be an illegal requirement, although many colleges and universities still do try to insist on this.

Our experience is that where challenged with reference to the Equalities Act the insitution will then back down, although some do have to be threatened with legal action first. Most colleges and universities however are thoroughly reasonable over this, and will admit that their entry requirements were written before the Act came into force and have simply not been looked at since.

## Welcome to the Dyscalculia Centre

The Dyscalculia Centre provides a range of information on dyscalculia which can be accessed through the headings above.

If you are interested in being tested yourself for dyscalculia or testing a child there are details in these articles:

Testing: information for teachers

Testing: information for parents

Testing: information for adults who think they may be dyscalculia

**SUPPORT MATERIALS**

**Books of activities to support dyscalculic adults and children**

The Dyscalculia Centre has also published several books that can be used to help dyscalculic people of all ages overcome their difficulties with maths. These books are intended to be used by the dyscalculic person working alongside a teacher or a friend who has average ability in maths. They are also suitable for a parent who wishes to help her or his child.

Ordering details are given at the end

**Dyscalculia activities 1: addition to division:**- copiable resource of activities to teach the four basic functions to children

**Dyscalculia activities 1: addition to division** works from the basis that virtually everyone who has particular difficulties with mathematics has problems because they have failed to grasp one or more of the fundamental principles of maths, and it is this that causes their subsequent problems. The book goes through these fundamentals using a multi-sensory approach alongside conventional notation of maths.

It is not anticipated that most people will need to work through the whole book; rather the volume is constructed so that the teacher can direct the pupil to work on specific topics in order to clarify issues previously misunderstood.

You will also need to provide a series of coloured counters (such as those used with games of Ludo or tiddlywinks) and for some of the later work, a set of cards.

**Dyscalculia activities 1: addition to division** is supplied as a download so that you can print out whatever sections you need. **Order code: T1654 £14.95**

Available as a download only.** **To see sample pages please click** here**

**Dyscalculia activities 2: shapes, fractions, percentages**

This volume follows on from “Practical Activities” and uses the same multi-sensory techniques that have proved successful in the earlier book. As before the book comes as a photocopiable volume and requires no additional equipment or materials save for a collection of coloured counters.

One of the huge benefits of this approach is that it not only works with those who have the genetic disorder which gives rise to dyscalculia, it also benefits those children who are failing to grasp mathematical concepts because of interrupted schooling, home problems or even a maths aversion which has developed because of early failure. Experience suggests that a short period of using multi-sensory techniques can be enough to overcome such problems and bring the pupil back to the class average.

Each activity within the book can be completed within a maximum of ten minutes, thus allowing the teacher or parent to stop the work the moment the child shows signs of maths-aversion, frustration or tiredness.

**Order code: T1719 £14.95**

Available as a download only.** ** To see sample pages please click **here**

**Dyscalculia activities 3: Time and timetables**- book of activities for pupils and students who have difficulty telling the time, following the sequence of days, weeks, months, seasons, etc

Time is the ultimate sequence, and children who master the concept of time usually overcome all their problems with sequencing and also find many concepts in maths much easier to handle. Indeed it is noticeable that many children who have difficulties with maths also have particular difficulties with the concept of time.

**Dyscalculia activities 3: Time and timetables** contains exercises and activities that are designed to overcome such problems and ensure that children have a full ability to handle all the concepts of time – from the passing of seasons to the use of the 24 hour clock and the reading of timetables.

The book contains a range of straightforward tests which will reveal where the child’s particular problems lie. This is followed by a series of activities covering all aspects of time. These activities can be undertaken in the classroom and can be photocopied and taken home. Indeed those children who are able to do five minutes homework a day on the subject of time will find that their understanding of time develops extremely quickly.

The book is available in photocopiable format which means that the activities can be shared with other staff in your department.

**Order code: T1712 £14.95**

Available as a download only.** ** To see sample pages please click **here.**

You can order any of these resources for immediate download from our **on-line shop**

**Please note that in order to keep the cost of the test at its current level we are no longer invoicing for tests, but do require payment by card with the order for the test.**

## Dyscalculia and the physical world

**Dyscalculia and the everyday physical world**

If you have any engagement with dyscalculia – for example because you are dyscalculic yourself, or because you know someone who is (or might be) dyscalculic, it is important to remember that dyscalculia affects everyday life.

Imagine being at a children’s party with your child, and the host hands you a knife and says, “Could you cut that cake into ten pieces for me?” that might seem the easiest thing in the world. You’d probably cut the cake in half, and then mark out each half section into five roughly equal bits. No problem.

All so easy – but for the dyscalculic person, you might as well ask them to carry the cake across a newly laid minefield. For such a person the issue is impossible to resolve, and worse, the dyscalculic person will know from painful experience, it will seem to everyone looking on to be a very simple task. They won’t understand the dyscalculic person’s problem.

Our world is in fact based on numbers all day every day, and if numbers are meaningless to you, then anything that involves number, measurement, time, fractions, etc etc, also becomes meaningless.

But what makes it worse is that everyone else doesn’t understand how this can be. The response to the question of “cut it into ten” of, “I don’t know how,” is liable to bring the answer, “Just cut it into ten,” which by and large is not very helpful.

Indeed, it is this lack of understanding of the fact that what seems obvious and everyday to most people can seem completely incomprehensible to a small number of people, that can make life so awful for many dyscalculic people. It is a disability that is incredibly hard for most people to imagine because a) it is invisible and b) most people take numbers for granted.

This is why sometimes in the reports that the Dyscalculia Centre issues after a diagnostic test for dyscalculia has been undertaken, we offer some thoughts and help in relation to maths and the physical world.

For example, if a person (be it a child, teenager or adult) takes our online test and reveals that she or he doesn’t have an understanding of fractions, we sometimes suggest that this individual works with a person who does not have dyscalculia on the simple task of dividing things up.

One starting activity can be taking a piece of paper that is circular in shape with the instruction that it has to be cut in half.

That might seem simple and obvious to the non-dyscalculic person – you simply fold the circular piece of paper over on itself, and then cut along the fold, and you have two equal sections. But that is not always at all the obvious way to proceed for the dyscalculic person.

But when that dyscalculic person has seen the solution and done it, the idea becomes a reality – especially if one then asks, “how many pieces of paper did we have at the start?” (the answer is one). Then “how many do we have now?” (the answer is two). “How can we check that they are the same size?” (fit one on top of the other).

Even that last moment of placing one piece of paper on top of the other might seem problematic to some, but once the process has been seen through several times, it slowly becomes understood.

Then the numbers are engaged. Place the two semi-circular pieces of paper on the table next to each other. “How many pieces of paper do we have?”

The answer of course is two. The number “2” is written on each.

“But this is only one of those two pieces isn’t it?” asks the instructor, and once that is agreed, the number one can be written above the number 2, and everyone says, “one out of two”.

From there it is but a step to write ½ and introduce the word “half.”

The point about this is once it is introduced physically and has been repeated a couple of times, it is possible to move on to quarters, and then start adding quarters and a half together, introducing ¾ as one progresses, along with the new terminology and the written maths.

This is classic multi-sensory learning. The physical objects (the paper) are handled, the words are said and the symbols written down.

It is slow, but over time, and with many dyscalculics, for the first time, fractions have a real life meaning. Suddenly, instead of the sum

½ + ¼ =

being given the answer 1/6 (which is the most common answer for a dyscalculic person to give), the realisation strikes that the answer indeed ¾ - and that has a real physical meaning.

If you know anyone who could benefit from undertaking our on-line test for dyscalculia you will find details under Testing for Dyscalculia on our website.

If you have any questions, please do email

Tony Attwood C.Ed., B.A., M.Phil (Lond) F.Inst.A.M.

## Testing for dyscalculia - further information

**Testing for dyscalculia: why and how**

This article concerns how adults may be tested for dyscalculia, the reasons that students and adults might want to be tested, and issues relating to admission to sixth form, university and employment for people with dyscalculia.

Please note there are two other articles on testing on this site

Testing for Dyscalculia notes for teachers

Testing for Dyscalculia notes for parents

**1: Why should an adult or a student taking GCSE exams and above be tested for dyscalculia?**

First, the negative: testing does not make the dyscalculia go away. It simply confirms (if that is the result) that the individual is dyscalculic, and normally where the problems are. Nor does it automatically exclude the need to have a pass in GCSE maths or any other exam. More on this below.

A diagnostic test for dyscalculia may be helpful for several reasons:

**For the school**– it enables the special needs department to see exactly what the problem is, and how the teaching of maths may be varied in order to help the individual pupil or student. In general terms this is the same as dyslexia – once one know the individual is dyslexic or dyscalculic, the teaching can be adjusted to account for this.**For sixth form, college or university applications.**Some institutions require a GCSE pass at a particular level before students can enter the establishment or take a certain course. Where the requirement is for laid down because the course being applied for contains maths at a certain level, then it is hard to argue with such a requirement. However, if (for example) a student wants to study for a degree in English, but the university requires GCSE maths at a certain level as an indication of a general all-round educational ability, it is almost certainly not reasonable to exclude a dyscalculic person, given the provisions of the Equalities Act. There are more details concerning this Act (which applies to the whole UK) on our website. The best approach is to make representation to the college or university before doing anything else, to see what their position is on this. In our experience many individual departments in higher education will waive the requirement for maths at a certain level, providing the course does not require the ability to undertake maths.

**2: Compulsory retakes of maths at school.**

Government regulations in England state that achieving a level 2 qualification, and in particular a GCSE grade 9 to 4 or A* to C, in both maths and English helps students to progress to further study, training and skilled employment. The maths and English condition of funding requires students to retake the exams until they achieve a pass at the required level.

It is therefore essential that the student is given the right sort of tuition in accordance with their special needs to be able to reach this attainment. Some schools, we know unofficially ignore the requirement but that of course is a matter for the school.

But all schools in the UK are also bound by the Equalities Act which clearly states that

a) under the Equalities Act the education must be given in a way that recognises the special needs of the student and b) under the compulsory retake regulations the student has to resit the maths exam if it is not passed.

Not to provide teaching that takes account of diagnosed dyscalculia would be a breach of the Equalities Act. Not to forward a suspected dyscalculic student or pupil for testing would also be a breach of the Act.

Thus quite clearly (in our view) if a student fails GCSE maths and thus becomes part of the compulsory re-sit situation, and there is any suspicion that the student might be dyscalculic, they logically need to be tested and then if diagnosed, given tuition that is commensurate with their disability.

**What are you wanting to achieve?**

People get tested either because they wish to satisfy their curiosity as to whether dyscalculia is why they can't do maths, or because (by way of example) a university or employer might require GCSE maths at a certain level before entry or appointment, or because they are finding the regular re-taking of GCSE maths exams is emotionally very disturbing.

Because of the laws outlined above, it is important to be very clear why you want to be tested, as this will indicate what route needs to be taken.

The most common reasons for wanting to be tested are:

**Simply to know if I am dyscalculic.**In this regard our on line test is probably the best way forward. It is not as definitive as seeing a psychologist, but it is only about one sixth of the price.**To start the process of helping the individual learn maths.**While a psychologist specialising in the subject may well be able to indicate where the problems are, he/she normally don’t indicate how to overcome these difficulties. Again, in these circumstances the on-line test might be best as if dyscalculia is found, we also supply some teaching materials that can help the individual start to progress in maths.**To gain admission to a college or university.**Before doing anything else, write to the institution, set out the details of the case, and then ask them if they can waive their admission requirements in the light of this special need. They may provide their own test for dyscalculia and remedial materials, so this should be done before arranging for any other diagnostic test to be taken.**To avoid having to take the GCSE maths**papers over and over again because of failure to reach the government’s required grade. However there is nothing in the regulations that recognises dyscalculia. Therefore the logical solution has to be that the school or college tests the students who have to re-sit the maths GCSE exam for possible dyscalculia, and then if dyscalculia is found, to teach these students in an appropriate way. If this is not done, it is difficult to see how the school is obeying the requirements of the Equalities Act although we know of no case law which resolves this situation.

But it is important to distinguish why maths is required, beyond the government’s regulation about resits. In many situations a maths qualification such as GCSE is a pre-requisite for continuing in a course, no matter what, because maths is of the essence in the profession one wishes to follow (for example for an accountant) or the course being studied (for example a maths GCSE may be required before entry to a Chemistry A Level course).

But where a university or employer asks for maths as an entry requirement in order to show a "rounded education" then showing one has dyscalculia can be used to set this aside, under the rules of the Equalities Act. (See http://dyscalculia.me.uk/special-needs-and-the-law.html for more on the legal situation).

You can find the details of the nearest educational psychologist who specialises in dyscalculia from either the British Psychological Society or the Association of Educational Psychologists - both of whom have web sites containing details of their members. We believe the cost is around £450 for a session including the writing of the report, but obviously you will need to check.

Our on-line diagnostic test is a lot less expensive because it is online, and thus because it cannot be as accurate as the diagnosis of a psychologist who meets an individual one to one, but many people do find it helpful. The details are at http://dyscalculia.me.uk/dyscalculia-in-adults.html (see part 4 of the article on that page).

However in conclusion I would stress that although the tests can tell you if it is likely that you have dyscalculia or not they will not of themselves improve your maths. Although with our test, if we do find dyscalculia is likely to be the cause of your problems with maths, we do provide, free of charge, some materials you can use with a friend who is not dyscalculic, which can help you improve your maths.

Tony Attwood C.Ed., B.A., M.Phil (Lond), F.Inst.A.M.

Head of the Dyscalculia Centre

## Testing for dyscalculia: why and how

This article concerns how adults may be tested for dyscalculia, the reasons that students and adults might want to be tested, and issues relating to admission to sixth form, university and employment for people with dyscalculia.

Please note there are two other articles on testing on this site

Testing for Dyscalculia notes for teachers

Testing for Dyscalculia notes for parents

**1: Why should an adult or a student taking GCSE exams and above be tested for dyscalculia?**

First, the negative: testing does not make the dyscalculia go away. It simply confirms (if that is the result) that the individual is dyscalculic, and normally where the problems are. Nor does it automatically exclude the need to have a pass in GCSE maths or any other exam. More on this below.

A diagnostic test for dyscalculia may be helpful for several reasons:

**For the school**– it enables the special needs department to see exactly what the problem is, and how the teaching of maths may be varied in order to help the individual pupil or student. In general terms this is the same as dyslexia – once one know the individual is dyslexic or dyscalculic, the teaching can be adjusted to account for this.**For sixth form, college or university applications.**Some institutions require a GCSE pass at a particular level before students can enter the establishment or take a certain course. Where the requirement is for laid down because the course being applied for contains maths at a certain level, then it is hard to argue with such a requirement. However, if (for example) a student wants to study for a degree in English, but the university requires GCSE maths at a certain level as an indication of a general all-round educational ability, it is almost certainly not reasonable to exclude a dyscalculic person, given the provisions of the Equalities Act. There are more details concerning this Act (which applies to the whole UK) on our website. The best approach is to make representation to the college or university before doing anything else, to see what their position is on this. In our experience many individual departments in higher education will waive the requirement for maths at a certain level, providing the course does not require the ability to undertake maths.

**2: Compulsory retakes of maths at school.**

Government regulations in England state that achieving a level 2 qualification, and in particular a GCSE grade 9 to 4 or A* to C, in both maths and English helps students to progress to further study, training and skilled employment. The maths and English condition of funding requires students to retake the exams until they achieve a pass at the required level.

It is therefore essential that the student is given the right sort of tuition in accordance with their special needs to be able to reach this attainment. Some schools, we know unofficially ignore the requirement but that of course is a matter for the school.

But all schools in the UK are also bound by the Equalities Act which clearly states that

a) under the Equalities Act the education must be given in a way that recognises the special needs of the student and b) under the compulsory retake regulations the student has to resit the maths exam if it is not passed.

Not to provide teaching that takes account of diagnosed dyscalculia would be a breach of the Equalities Act. Not to forward a suspected dyscalculic student or pupil for testing would also be a breach of the Act.

Thus quite clearly (in our view) if a student fails GCSE maths and thus becomes part of the compulsory re-sit situation, and there is any suspicion that the student might be dyscalculic, they logically need to be tested and then if diagnosed, given tuition that is commensurate with their disability.

**What are you wanting to achieve?**

People get tested either because they wish to satisfy their curiosity as to whether dyscalculia is why they can't do maths, or because (by way of example) a university or employer might require GCSE maths at a certain level before entry or appointment, or because they are finding the regular re-taking of GCSE maths exams is emotionally very disturbing.

Because of the laws outlined above, it is important to be very clear why you want to be tested, as this will indicate what route needs to be taken.

The most common reasons for wanting to be tested are:

**Simply to know if I am dyscalculic.**In this regard our on line test is probably the best way forward. It is not as definitive as seeing a psychologist, but it is only about one sixth of the price.**To start the process of helping the individual learn maths.**While a psychologist specialising in the subject may well be able to indicate where the problems are, he/she normally don’t indicate how to overcome these difficulties. Again, in these circumstances the on-line test might be best as if dyscalculia is found, we also supply some teaching materials that can help the individual start to progress in maths.**To gain admission to a college or university.**Before doing anything else, write to the institution, set out the details of the case, and then ask them if they can waive their admission requirements in the light of this special need. They may provide their own test for dyscalculia and remedial materials, so this should be done before arranging for any other diagnostic test to be taken.**To avoid having to take the GCSE maths**papers over and over again because of failure to reach the government’s required grade. However there is nothing in the regulations that recognises dyscalculia. Therefore the logical solution has to be that the school or college tests the students who have to re-sit the maths GCSE exam for possible dyscalculia, and then if dyscalculia is found, to teach these students in an appropriate way. If this is not done, it is difficult to see how the school is obeying the requirements of the Equalities Act although we know of no case law which resolves this situation.

But it is important to distinguish why maths is required, beyond the government’s regulation about resits. In many situations a maths qualification such as GCSE is a pre-requisite for continuing in a course, no matter what, because maths is of the essence in the profession one wishes to follow (for example for an accountant) or the course being studied (for example a maths GCSE may be required before entry to a Chemistry A Level course).

But where a university or employer asks for maths as an entry requirement in order to show a "rounded education" then showing one has dyscalculia can be used to set this aside, under the rules of the Equalities Act. (See http://dyscalculia.me.uk/special-needs-and-the-law.html for more on the legal situation).

You can find the details of the nearest educational psychologist who specialises in dyscalculia from either the British Psychological Society or the Association of Educational Psychologists - both of whom have web sites containing details of their members. We believe the cost is around £450 for a session including the writing of the report, but obviously you will need to check.

Our on-line diagnostic test is a lot less expensive because it is online, and thus because it cannot be as accurate as the diagnosis of a psychologist who meets and individual one to one, but many people do find it helpful. The details are at http://dyscalculia.me.uk/dyscalculia-in-adults.html (see part 4 of the article on that page).

However in conclusion I would stress that although the tests can tell you if it is likely that you have dyscalculia or not they will not of themselves improve your maths. Although with our test, if we do find dyscalculia is likely to be the cause of your problems with maths, we do provide, free of charge, some materials you can use with a friend who is not dyscalculic, which can help you improve your maths.

Tony Attwood C.Ed., B.A., M.Phil (Lond), F.Inst.A.M.

Head of the Dyscalculia Centre

## 20 years of dyscalculia

**Is dyscalculia real, and if so how can those with dyscalculia be helped?**

Twenty years ago when my colleagues and I started the Dyscalculia Information Centre we did so because we realised many people were becoming aware of dyscalculia, either because they felt it could explain their own failings at maths, or those of their own children, or indeed the young people they were teaching, but at the same time didn’t have access to much non-technical information on the subject.

Many wanted more information about what dyscalculia is, and what can be done about. Others wanted to know if it was just an excuse, having heard on social media that it didn’t really exist at all! Yet others wanted to know about the legal issues: are schools, universities and employers legally obliged to provide exam exemptions or support for people with dyscalculia?

We quickly realised that at the time it was quite hard to find out very much about dyscalculia in order to answer questions such as these. There were a few books published on the topic, but they tended for the most part to be academic in nature rather than of direct practical benefit to parents, teachers, or adults who felt they might have dyscalculia.

Thus our approach has been to work with everyone who comes across dyscalculia in one way or another, to help them understand what dyscalculia is, help those they teach overcome the problems dyscalculia bring, and also help establish if a person is likely to have dyscalculia, before spending substantial sums on a full-blown assessment undertaken by a psychologist.

Inevitably our work has taken us beyond maths. For just as a difficulty in using the written language has implications for many aspects of life, so does a difficulty with using maths cause problems throughout daily existence. Problems with dates, money (even in the days of credit card, the account still needs to be checked), time, distances, learning sequences, even geography…

Over time the Dyscalculia Centre has found its place in the order of things, providing classroom materials, low-cost testing, and information where required. And where we find we have often been asked the same question, we’ve tried to write a free briefing paper to provide the answer. The main areas of our work are listed at the top of each page on our website. Briefing papers are listed under “Latest articles” on the home page.

Of course many people want to know if they themselves, those they teach, or their own children are dyscalculic, and we offer help with this.

For others the prime question relates to colleges and universities which require maths at a certain grade for a student can be admitted on a course, and how students who are dyscalculic can be helped in this regard.

We also get many questions relating to what the law says about dyscalculia and education and employment – hence our article “Special Needs and the Law”.

We like to think that over the past 20 years we’ve provided a fair range of information on dyscalculia on the website but if you can’t find what you are looking for we’ll most certainly try and help. Just email

Tony Attwood C.Ed., B.A,. M.Phil (Lond) F.Inst.A.M

The Dyscalculia Centre