Dyscalculia in Higher education


Recent research which I carried out with Clare Trott of Loughborough University revealed that a significant number of students applying for University courses are not aware of any, or the extent of, maths in the courses. The questions to ask of the University are, 'How much maths is there in this course? What maths should I know?' and maybe, 'What support can I get?'

The research illustrates the prevalence of maths in HE and the situation where students think they have left maths behind after achieving the necessary grade of GCSE at 16 years old. Some achieve that success by cramming just before the exam, but the knowledge is not retained long term. Support at University can be significant. The DSA, Disabled Students' Allowance (see www.yourdsa.com for comprehensive information) can lead to provision of assessment, equipment, assistive software and general support. It may be that students may be wary of asking for help. Parents and friends may have an important role to play here.

Lectures may present a number of problems, often around note-taking. Among the Apps that can help with this is the (free to download) Soncent App which enables students to make high quality recording and mark up key information as they listen. Students may ask for PowerPoints or notes prior to a lecture, reducing the need to take notes. At this stage in their education and as an adult there will be the reasonable expectation that students will take on at least some of the initiative to seek appropriate help. Sites like yourdsa.com will be a great help. This initial help is impersonal and anonymous. Note: It may be helpful to read the previous sections, irrespective of your age.

At home

Assignments may create problems and make demands on time that seem overwhelming. The support staff at the University will offer help and advocacy. Some Universities have Mathematics Learning Support Centres, most have Learning Support Centres. The individual (socially/ emotionally/ behaviourally) and in education (on learning / attainment / behaviour) Among the problems that may be experienced are those around the many manifestations of organising. This may be organising notes and records, organising time or organising tasks. There are some Apps (see below) that may help. Again, the Support Centres are there with expertise and contacts that can source help from other agencies if required. Ideally students at this stage have learned self-advocacy.

Useful sites/ resources

  • Moorcraft, P. (2015) 'It Just Doesn't Add Up: Explaining Dyscalculia and Overcoming Number Problems for Children and Adults'. Original Paperback
  • www.mathsexplained.co.uk (tutorials that address topics in a non-age specific way)
  • dyscalculia-screener.co.uk A screener for post-16
  • Swipes app An intuitive to-do list which gives the fastest way to organise any list of tasks into priorities, scheduled events and history of accomplishments
  • www.todoist.com. Another App for organising.
  • www.mathscentre.ac.uk Resources for learners in HE and those applying for HE
  • stemreader.org.uk is a Windows application with tools to help read and explore equations. With STEMReader you can hear equations read aloud and see the transcript on screen, break down equations into simple chunks to make them easier to understand and check the meaning of unfamiliar symbols. untimeapp.com A timer app that shows how much time is left in a visual way

(I am grateful to Pete Jarrett of Tutorum.co.uk for his assistance in suggesting resources for FE and HE sections. Note: Pete does assessments for dyscalculia.)

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