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Centre for Neuroscience in Education


Jenny’s Unexplicable Low Maths Scores

Jenny’s Mum was frustrated as she looked over the report card. Jenny was a bright, happy child who seemed normal in every way. “How could Jenny score such high marks in reading, writing, and history, but do so poorly in maths?” she asked herself. “Maybe we’re just not trying hard enough.”

Jenny’s situation is not unique. Lots of other kids and adults also have difficulties with mathematics while having at least a normal IQ and normal performance in other subjects. This learning impairment is known as Developmental Dyscalculia, pronounced “Dis calc YOU lia”, and has been shown to affect roughly 3-6% of tested populations1.


Is Developmental Dyscalculia Always the Reason People Do Poorly at Maths?

No, there are believed to be several underlying causes that contribute to poor maths performance. One could be low general cognitive ability. This would normally coincide with low IQ scores and low marks in subjects across the board. Other reasons for poor performance in maths could be poor instruction (i.e. the child’s maths teachers were not as effective as teachers from other subjects), lack of motivation (i.e. the child just doesn’t like maths compared to other subjects), or perhaps the child experiences maths anxiety.

Developmental Dyscalculia is different from the above potential causes for poor maths performance. With Developmental Dyscalculia, a child or adult could have normal intelligence in every other way, could have had excellent maths instruction, could not be experiencing any special dislike or anxiety about maths, but could still struggle to do well at maths due to a specific impairment in the brain.


What Can You Do?

If you suspect that you, your child, or your student may have Developmental Dyscalculia, we recommend that you make an appointment with a professional to receive a diagnosis. For a child in school, the first step should be to speak to the SENCO (Special Education Needs Coordinator) who may then make a recommendation to see an Educational Psychologists (or school psychologist in the U.S.). Some Neurologists can also diagnose learning impairments and may be a better options for adults. By seeing a professional, you can help to rule out other potential mitigating factors such as ineffective instruction, lack of motivation, or maths anxiety.

Once you determine the probable cause of the maths difficulties, then it’s time to learn. With more knowledge about the learning difficulty it will be easier to find ways to overcome it. Come back to this site frequently, and visit other sites to learn as much as you can about dyscalculia and other maths related learning difficulties. We will be updating the site frequently with the most current findings from research.




1) Szűcs, D., & Goswami, U. (2013). Developmental dyscalculia: Fresh perspectives. Trends in Neuroscience and Education, 2(2), 33-37.