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weird combination of dyscalculia and way ahead with reading?

(53 Posts)
gussiegrips Sat 13-Oct-12 20:44:20

DD is 8. She's the youngest in her year and has rotten parents who didn't defer her

She's a proper bookworm - by which I mean she devours them and has a tremendous recall of what's happened and great insights into what's going on in the story. Teachers all very excited about her reading and comprehension and volcabulary - at parents' night her new teachers said they'd assessed her literacy at beyond a 12 year olds.


Only, she can't count.

Her previous teacher had noted her superdooper reading, but paid more attention the fact that any time she's presented with a number she bursts into tears...and had done some work which suggested dyscalculia.

DD's able to count with something physical - so, let her use fingers, cubes, buttons and she can work out sums and do her multiplication tables. Without something to hold or look at, may as well be talking to her in Greek.

She has no concept of numbers - eg. if she has a desire for soemthing she's got no idea if it's going to take her a week to save up her pocket money, or thirty. She struggles to tell the time, she can do her 0, 1, 2, 5, 10, 11 times tables if you start at the beginning - but, fire "what's 2 x 7?" at her and she's got to count it up from teh beginning.

It's as if she has no notion of where to start with numbers. She still reverses numbers and her written work looks like a hen's scratched across the paper... writing words is fine.

I can't decide whether this is because the focus on early years education has been on reading, which she's not had to TRY with. So, now she's really having to try, she hasn't got a clue how to go about that and is a bit lost?

Or, is it possible to be all clever with literacy, and all dunce with numeracy?

Got any ideas about how to approach the school with this? I'm concerned that if she doesn't get her multiplication tables licked this year she's sunk.

I spoke to her (very nice and very capable) teacher - who gave her a multiplication table chart and was very reassuring...but, she acutally said "there is a finite amount of time we can spend on tables, and if she doens't learn them then she can just use the chart"

REally? HAve I misunderstood what she said? Because, I interpret that as "if you don't learn it in time we won't bother helping you to catch up"

I don't want to make a fuss, and I am confident that the school know what they are doing - but I don't think this years teachers (it's a job share) have really grasped the absolute crapness of her numeracy - because DD masks well in class and says "oh yes, I see" when, actually, she doesn't and then I have to deal with the weeping and my efforts to help are just making it worse.

If you've read this far, thanks.

Admiraltea Sat 13-Oct-12 21:10:30

bizarrely was trying to fill in assessment grid for girl year older than yours as read your post. I am referring her for assessment next month for dyscalculia .. super mega bright literacy. rabbit in headlights maths. The mismatch is where you can begin a conversation. Unfortunately in maths the equivalent to the dyslexia awareness campaign has not even lifted off the floor. With my mum hat on go back a load of stages at home. Buy Percy parker or equivalent fun times table songs if that is the current worry and make maths at home a giggle.

HappyTurquoise Sat 13-Oct-12 21:52:18

There's a lot you can do at home. As admiraltea says, make it fun and do little bits at home every day.
If she needs things to hold to get the concepts across, fabulous to have understood that. Go with it, and see if you can borrow a set of Cuisinaire rods or whatever they use in school to represent number (Cuisinaire are great though, as they're colour coded and you just identify the 'number' by colour and length, so it's fantastic for fine tuning spacial awareness.) Make squares up, use shape and area to understand number.
Unifix counting cubes are also good. Make patterns - a long line of cubes, every 3rd one red, the others pale colours, to 'see' the 3x table. Break them into sticks of 3 and make into a rectangle to see the pattern build up.
Get her to record what she does on squared paper by colouring in the squares. That is a first step at representing the objects.
If you can't lay your hands on that kind of thing, try using tiddlywinks, squared paper, lego, anything you have a lot of at home (we went outside and looked at house bricks!).
Then move on to picture representation - groups of n objects. e.g. 3 apples in a tree, five trees...count up the apples. How many legs on the cows? how many arms on the starfish? How many legs on the beetles? (and so on) She can draw her own, and write about them, using the number words and the numerals.

Orchard Toys have some good maths games, there might be places you could borrow (or buy and resell on ebay?) Just have fun on a basic level, just chatting about numbers, and you could write things down to keep score. Get her talking about number and remembering what she has said/done.

Sometimes you find bright children are over thinking and expect maths to be far more complicated - something hasn't been explained to them clearly and they just need to be reassured that 3 is always just 3, and never 6...Then, once they grasp that, they're away.

Personally I've always found remembering numbers and thinking in abstract about number very difficult. I find I need to use my visual memory to help. It sounds as though your DD needs to use her kinaesthetic (doing/feeling) memory and perhaps her aural memory.

gussiegrips Sat 13-Oct-12 22:06:00

THanks so much! It's probably not very helpful that I have never really "gotten" maths either.

I do a lot of dressmaking and crafting - but being able to create my own knitting pattern leads to such gnashing of teeth that I've been asked not to bother anymore...

Her dad, on the other hand, is a mathematical whizz. He does freaky things like sudoku. For pleasure. Really hard ones. Oh, and he works in finance, numbers just please him.

Thanks for the suggestions. Am away to flex my Amazon muscles...

HappyTurquoise Sat 13-Oct-12 23:43:04

gussiegrips, I could have posted that myself! I have to make up my own patterns too and OH is a mathematical/scientific marvel. (Well, that's one way of putting it!)

When she's a bit older, and has got the idea of times tables, square numbers, Fibonacci series etc. there's a book called The Number Devil that explains numbers in story form and might be one your OH would like to read to your DD!

There are probably good books which involve a bit of maths which she might like to read...Can't think of any off the top of my head (other than Enid Blyton) but detective/mystery stories often have problem solving in them which involves and explains different aspects of mathematical thinking.

steppemum Sun 14-Oct-12 00:19:32

The mis-match to me is a bit of a flag raiser. i think I would want a meeting with teacher and point out the difference. Tell her about dyscalculia, tell her you want her assessed, tell her that you don't want the fact that she is a good reader and writer to mean she doesn't get specialist support in this area.

Obviously be nice and bow to her greater experience as a teacher, but don't assume she knows and is uo to speed on it.

Namechangeyetagain Sun 14-Oct-12 00:23:10

You could be talking about me as a child. Amazing literacy skills, very high reading age yet maths floored me. still does!

Extra support/tuition would be beneficial to her.

gussiegrips Sun 14-Oct-12 01:18:44

Have sat up too late reading dycalculia stuff. Have to confess, I have avoided it in the hope that she'd suddenly "get it" and solve the problem...

Good grief. She's got it all - can't estimate, can't tell the time, can't understndt he jump between units, tens, thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands to millions. Can't remember her multiplication tables and has no insihgt into if 5x2=10 then 2x5=10 or that division is just multiplicaton tables done backwards. She can't tell her left from right, she's easily distracted from anything involving numbers and she Does Not Want to have anything to do with numbers ever.

Buggrit. I'm going to have to speak to the teacher again. I've flagged it up this week, will give it til Christmas and keep a wee book noting the diffiuculties we see at home (about numbers. I don' suppose they'll be very interested in my struggles to get anyone to put heir shoes away or hang up jackets...) if ther's no real improvement, at least in her anxiety by then, then I'll go in and be Very Polite and ask for some proper help.

And then, wonder what that help might be...sigh.

She could do with an O Grade maths, or whatever het equivalent is. Wihtout at least a basic qulaification then your choices are limited - and, at the moment she's animal mad and considers that being a tiger dentist would be a good career choice. Do tiger dentists need to bother with all that chemistry stuff, or just be able to run fast?

Admiraltea Sun 14-Oct-12 03:16:38

Please raise this sooner ... gentle chat keep expressing your concerns. As I said before dyscalculia very not recognised. Mention the tears at home, that you know she really struggles and you are worried as you know, as her mum, that she is working 100%. You may need to have this conversation a few times. I tend to avoid any labelling in chat but keep being persistent that it doesn't make sense. BTW I do the chat in the other direction iyswim and try not to make mums cry.
Plus please think musical as well as practical, language is already a strength.

PastSellByDate Sun 14-Oct-12 08:30:17

Hi gussiegrips

It's hard to know if this is dyscalcula or not - at University level where my husband works as a Lecturer and provides student welfare support - it's quite common to have dyslexics who are strong readers, but dyscalculate. In fact what seems to commonly be happening is that the memorisation skills are such that they don't sound out phonemes but memorise what whole words should be and their meaning (which does somewhat resonate with your description of your DD).

Now it may not be that she has dyscalcula - in that you are suggesting she's making progress with multiplication tables.

This is a shot in the dark - but my DD1 really struggled and it turned out that she must have visual examples of any concept she's learning. So for 10 - 6 she needs to see 10 cookies and then one by one six disappear leaving 4 first to be able to do that kind of problem with only numerals.

I can't swear this has all the answers but have a look at mathsfactor - which breaksdown maths calculations skills into very small bitesize chunks and has lots and lots of practice. The pace is very slow and that builds confidence. Link here:

Others her on Mumsnet have had good success with Mathletics (link here: and Maths Whizz (link here:

All of these offer free trials and you should explore them because I think each is very different - some are slow and quiet, some competitive, some student lead, etc...


CitrusyOne Sun 14-Oct-12 13:46:49

Gussie, as a SENCo can I also advise that you DO keep a log of other difficulties that may arise- organisational stuff, likes and dislikes etc. if school (or you) decide to involve other outside agencies the questions that they ask can be quite far reaching and when I've had to fill forms etc in f or families in the past I find myself thinking "I'd never have considered that"- if anything stands out to you at all then jot it down. You never know which direction the "experts" will veer off on and the more info and background you can give the better- e.g does she confuse colours? What was her early development like? Could she/can she sort shapes?

septemberpie Sun 14-Oct-12 20:32:16

You could be talking about my ds too - same age, very able reader assessed way above his chronological age but cannot understand numbers. However, I think he suffers more from a 'maths anxiety' because he gets into such a state when it comes to doing anything with numbers that he literally can't think straight.

He's making progress with lots of 1:1 at school (they have been great) and no pressure from us (which is hard as we have had to watch him falling far behind).

Mathletics is good if she will work with you on it at home (ds won't sad) but I really do think talking to the school would be a good move as you may be able to access more support if they think it appropriate to put her on an IEP.

SunflowersSmile Sun 14-Oct-12 21:00:40

Please don't 'fire' times tables at her op [bitter childhood experience along with 'what time is it?'].
I am well into my 40s and am pretty damn sure I have discalcula which I have learnt to live and mainly cope with. Early reader with flair for poetry. Fear and panic with numbers- not a clue. Difficulty with telling the time, maps, compasses, general spatial stuff. Poor handwriting [not sure a symptom!], disorganised [may just be me!].
It did blight my life and career choices. I also chose not to drive due to left/ right problem.
It is GREAT that it is recognised today. I so wish I had got support rather than humiliation at school.

RowgtfcGOLD72 Mon 15-Oct-12 17:52:58

I had this at school. Was a very early free reader but never even finished half the maths scheme. I wish it had been picked up when I was eight. At senior school I was placed in top sets for English and Maths as I was so far ahead in English. I scraped a c grade at GCSE, god knows how, it might as well have been written in Mandarin. My time telling is not great and I dont drive as even though I know left from right I cant do it without having to think about it. I avoid number related issues but have never hidden that I count on my fingers. Start with basic maths. Two times tables, shapes. Give her confidence that she can do the easy things then move it on a bit. Definitely involve the school in this. I will never be a maths genius but have learnt enough to get by.

neolara Mon 15-Oct-12 18:06:13

Perfectly possible to be a brilliant reader and rubbish at maths as acquisition of each relies on different underlying skills. The main difficulty dyscalculics (is that even a word?) face is that they can't get to grips with the concept of number. E.g. They can't get to grips with the concept of what 3 actually means. Until they really understand what 3 or 15 or 300 means, any other mathematical concept is likely to be very difficult to learn. This seems to be exactly the difficulty your dd faces.

The problem with dyscalcuia is that until very recently, there was not a good understanding of what the underlying issues were - there was just an acknowledgement that some people, who seemed perfectly bright in other ways, had a major difficulty with maths. Last year I attended a talk by one of the world's leading researchers into dyscalcuia, and he was very clear in his mind that it was difficulty with concept of number that was the problem.

HappyTurquoises's ideas further up the thread would all help massively with this. Also, numicon is worth a look at. It's expensive, but very effective. However, it's not enough to buy it and let your dd just play with it, you will need to somehow acquire the teaching books which explain things very, very clearly and work through exercises with your dd. You may be able to borrow the manuals from your dd's school. (I used to be an educational psychologist.)

SunflowersSmile Mon 15-Oct-12 18:29:30

I too have to think about left and right and my 7 year old laughs at me counting on my fingers. It has shaped my life- mainly not in a good way. Like you Rowgtcgold I was seen as a bright child who was crap at maths.
Would have been more understood and helped these days- oh the tears I shed over long division.....

thewhistler Mon 15-Oct-12 18:52:27


As well as the references up there, read Steve Chinn's Sum Hope, about dyscalculia, for adults. A transformational book imv.

And I completely support cuisinaire. My DM used it to teach me and I understand maths concepts though can't add up or subtract, she didn't with my DSiS, older than me, who remains severely dyscalculic. You can also build log cabins with it, as I did as I was reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder stories at about the same time. Don't use it just for maths.

Your dd will be interested in ideas. Get her thinking maths ideas. Has she read The Phantom Tolbooth? She's about the right age. Wonderful stuff about words and maths, not set out like that.(can you eat a square meal?, what would happen if you grew down, not up?). And the best of all the multiplication and squares stories, one grain of rice.

thewhistler Mon 15-Oct-12 19:06:55

And, sorry, shopping and pocket money.

A lot of people written off by school as innumerate are functionally numerate, they can tell if they are getting a good deal for their tins of beans on bogofs. If you talk outloud to yourself while wandering around with her, she will get the hang of it.

I really regret not having old fashioned post office savings accounts with books, where you put your 50p in to the nice lady behind the till and she updated your account which your DM had also made you do and you then checked the nice lady had fine it right. Could you do that with a piggy bank and a book, and have a once a month counting the money session? Making maths real is part of it.

Getting her cooking with weights and measures, dividing up pizza and cake (traybake as well as round), is also helpful.

catinhat Tue 16-Oct-12 15:15:39

Is she left handed?

I have a dd who is left handed who writes numbers the wrong way round. (She still does at 8)

This dd is a great reader but struggles to know left from right and to read music. Ok, her maths is good, but it does seem that a person can present unexpected problems. E.g. I had expected an early and competent reader to be able to read music.

Is there maths you can do not involving numbers (e.g. written numbers?).

catinhat Tue 16-Oct-12 15:19:13

Just to add...I have poor mental arithmetic, struggle with right and left but am great at proper maths (e.g. advanced stuff involving thinking and concepts) as evidenced by my engineering degree from Cambridge.

Maths is a confidence thing - if a child or adult thinks they're useless at it, it tends to be a self-fufilling thing.

Hope you find something that works - I hate to think of children thinking that they 'can't do maths' when really they can.

namechangeroo Tue 16-Oct-12 16:03:46

I am the same as your daughter. I had a very advanced reading age all of my childhood but was so appalling at maths. I scraped through GCSE with the help of a tutor. Even now I struggle with money, telling the time and mental arithmetic. I do however have a first degree in French and Linguistics and love words! As long as she can get through the necessary, let her enjoy and excel at what she is good at.

gussiegrips Wed 17-Oct-12 23:59:19

I know, I know, I know - she's the same as me. Words and language - easy peasy, distances and numbers - blaurch.

But, it upsets her. I don't remember being reduced to tears by my inability to work out "if 72 rupees = 1 pound, how many rupees do you get from 2, 3, 4 etc pounds?"

I'd have realised it was a sum, she just looks at the question and bursts into tears.

i've written down the recommendations and am going to investigate.

Promise not to fire qustions at her, valid point,well put!

SunflowersSmile Thu 18-Oct-12 09:45:37

Firing questions causes brain freeze- I know!!
Good luck gussiegrips.

gussiegrips Thu 18-Oct-12 22:42:42

thanks, it's been really helpful - I really appreciate all the advice.


12xtables Wed 24-Oct-12 16:15:22

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