17 September 2003

Number dyslexia hits one in 20 children

Dyscalculia, the arithmetical equivalent of dyslexia, afflicts about one child in 20 in Britain and could make them cases for special treatment, Brian Butterworth of University College London told the British Association science festival at Salford yesterday.

Most people can recognise three or four objects without needing to count. Dyscalculics cannot. They have trouble manipulating numbers at all.

'Our big success this year has been to get the government to recognise dyscalculia,' he said. 'This could pave the way for funding to support these kids. These kids find it difficult to count. They think that three plus one is five. They might learn it by rote, but they do not understand why it isn't five. They are misdiagnosed by their teachers as stupid, they are misdiagnosed by their parents as stupid, they think of themselves as stupid, other kids think they are stupid and the daily maths lesson is a daily humiliation for them.'

Being innumerate in a numerical society is, trust me, horrible. The other thing that people do with kids who cannot do basic arithmetic is assume that they are lazy.

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