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News about Dyscalculia - Schools will test for genetic 'number blindness'
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Posted on June 22 2006 12:10 AM
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From http://www.opinio...aph.co.uk/

Schools will test for genetic 'number blindness'
By Macer Hall
(Filed: 14/04/2002)

THOUSANDS of schoolchildren are to be tested for dyscalculia, a "number blindness" condition which is increasingly being cited as the reason many youngsters are failing at maths.

Scientists believe that up to six per cent of the population, the equivalent of nearly two children in every classroom, suffers from the little-known genetic disorder, which is related to dyslexia. Educationists fear that dyscalculic children are falling behind in mathematics because teachers are not aware that the condition exists.

In an attempt to identify possible sufferers, the tests are to be introduced in schools across the country in September as part of research into dyscalculia backed by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES). The tests have been devised by Brian Butterworth, the professor of cognitive neuropsychology at University College London, with the British Dyslexia Association.

Dyscalculia sufferers are often unable to understand mathematical concepts as simple as 2+2=4. It is thought that they are born lacking the ability to understand different numbers and the relationships between them.

The condition is far less widely recognised than dyslexia, Prof Butterworth said. Although many people had both conditions, it was possible to have good language and literacy skills but still be "number blind".

Dyscalculia was first discovered in 1919 by Salomon Henschen, a Swedish neurologist. He found that it was possible for a person to have impaired mathematical abilities that did not affect intelligence in general. The DfES tests involve a series of simple maths questions, including counting dots on a computer screen, or comparing two sets of images and indicating which is the larger.

Children will be graded according to the time they take to answer the questions, with different response times expected for various groups. The tests this year, which will involve children at all school ages, are being seen as the first step to- wards a national screening programme.

"Dyscalculia is a big problem that is only just being recognised," said Prof Butterworth. "My own guess is that it is rather like colourblindness; there will be ways of working round it, but there won't be a cure as such.

"We found that some children with very severe dyscalculia can still achieve A-level mathematics. They can understand abstract mathematics but struggle with the simpler number stuff."

He added that the Government's national numeracy strategy had been bad for dyscalculic children. "It requires them to participate in whole-class teaching when they can never answer the question."

The tests will be available to local education authorities (LEAs) this September from nferNelson, which supplies a range of educational assessments to schools throughout Britain. Although the decision on testing will be left to LEAs, the DfES is monitoring the scheme.

A DfES spokesman said: "We provide special educational-needs training for our teachers, and that includes guidelines on dyscalculia. The national numeracy strategy is designed to raise standards in maths for all children and, since September last year, we have been sending out specific information on dyscalculia."

Pauline Clayton, the principal tutor in maths at the Dyslexia Institute, feared however that the tests would simply add to the burden of assessment on schoolchildren. "Good teachers get a gut feeling about their children, they know those who are underachieving," she said. "Greater awareness of dyscalculia is needed but I don't think we should go down the route of testing."
Edited by Admin on June 22 2006 02:32 PM
 
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