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Mathematical demands on our brains are varied and complex, and the required skills involved in solving them range significantly in nature and complexity.

If you, or your child, find numbers a challenge, it’s likely difficult to imagine that some people feel confident with numbers and numerical processes. Some people even find the manipulating of numbers to be fun, seeking opportunities to engage in math puzzles in their spare time.

Many individuals who struggle with math receive a diagnosis of Dyscalculia - a learning difficulty that we will explore in more detail in this blog. We will also present a different reality to those who see their child, or even themselves, as simply not a “math person” by introducing an approach that targets mathematical difficulties at their very core.

If you would like to explore this subject in more detail, sign up to our free webinar - Decoding Numbers: Overcoming Dyscalculia and Unlocking Mathematical Proficiency. This is the final webinar in our three-part series looking at how the brain can be strengthened for success in the classroom, workplace and life.

Join us:

  • Tuesday November 21 at 7PM ET


Numeracy is a Skill for Life Success

Numerous tasks over the course of our day require number sense and numerical capabilities. Someone who is limited in their understanding and ability to manipulate numbers will find a variety of tasks difficult: whether making a purchase, doubling a recipe, budgeting, scheduling an event, or navigating a transit schedule.

Math is a complex task that is required in many of our daily activities, not merely in school. It gives us a way to understand patterns, to quantify relationships, and to predict the future. Math even helps us understand the world. Consider how we use math to:

Problem Solve – identifying the right tools, procedures and representations to solve problems, whether big (household budgeting) or small (primary school curriculum)

Communicate – developing language and visual representations with symbols and conventions of mathematics like graphs, maps, even recipes

Connect – using math to model situations or events to explain the complexities and relationships in the world (think of the impact of global climate change)

What is Dyscalculia?

Just as Dyslexia is used as a term to describe difficulties in reading, Dyscalculia is the term used to describe difficulties in remembering, understanding and manipulating numbers. And like dyslexia, it can take on different forms and can impact children and adults:

Challenges in the classroom:

  • grasping number concepts - value, relationship, patterns and operations
  • accuracy in mathematical calculations
  • understanding spatial relationships, visualizing shapes or symmetry and angles
  • comprehending math problems and determining next steps to solve them
  • processing speed and understanding math-related information
  • managing time
  • applying knowledge across math strands

Challenges in the workplace:

  • interpreting and analyzing numerical data
  • managing budgets and expenses
  • time management problem solving where numeracy is required
  • logistics

Challenges in life:

  • using money, budgeting and finance
  • following recipes to cook and bake
  • following assembly instructions requiring calculations
  • managing schedules and planning events
  • time management
  • playing games and keeping score
  • determining quantities

Individuals who struggle to understand what is being asked of them in mathematics can struggle with their self-esteem and other areas of their mental well-being. We are all positioned for compromised mental health when the expectations and challenges before us exceed our capacity to manage.

Dyscalculia Varies Widely Between Individuals Due to Our Unique Cognitive Profiles

As common as it is, the features of dyscalculia vary widely from person to person because - simply put - no two brains are exactly alike. There are a number of different cognitive functions that are essential for the acquisition and application of mathematical knowledge.

Cognitive functions essential to mathematics include:

Each individual given a label of dyscalculia may have a different combination of underperforming cognitive functions leading to this diagnosis. That means one thing - no two individuals with dyscalculia are identical.


How Arrowsmith Can Help Enhance an Individual’s Ability to Perform Mathematics By Strengthening the Brain

Many who experience difficulties in math, attempt to avoid it altogether. Often in school, math curriculum expectations are reduced y in an effort to lessen dyscalculia’s impact. Arrowsmith School and Arrowsmith Providers however, have a different take on math struggles. They know these difficulties do not have to be life long; that in fact, the brain can change and be strengthened due to its neuroplastic nature. Success is within reach.

The very cognitive functions causing dyscalculia issues can change and improve, through the principles of neuroplasticity. Arrowsmith uses cognitive exercises to improve brain function and fundamentally change the cognitive capacity of the individual.

Through this approach, Arrowsmith can strengthen an individual’s capacity to:

  • recall math facts
  • manipulate numbers
  • do mental calculations
  • problem solve in math
  • manage time and money
  • navigate the world with greater confidence
  • approach math learning with a growth mindset

Indeed anyone can become “a math person” through an Arrowsmith approach, and it’s vital that educators, parents, and especially students recognize this potential. Professor of Mathematical Education at Stanford University Dr Jo Boaler agrees, and says this about Arrowsmith’s Founder:

“ …(Barbara Arrowsmith-Young) is leading the world in her brain training approach… she has continued fighting for the rights of students who have been made to believe they are “broken”. Her teachers work to identify brain weaknesses and then teach to them – building up the brain pathways and connections that students need.”

- Dr Jo Boaler, Author of Limitless Mind

Challenge conventional thought that a math brain is only available to those born with it. Get in touch with an Arrowsmith Provider today, or sign up to our webinar on the subject Decoding Numbers: Overcoming Dyscalculia and Unlocking Mathematical Proficiency.


Shelley Woon
Post by Shelley Woon
November 10, 2023
Shelley, a passionate educator, brings a solution focused and collaborative perspective to each situation which is informed by her 30+ years of engaging with students, families and community partners. She values the brain-learning connection and is eager to assist others in developing an understanding of a neuroplastic approach in unlocking potential, particularly for those struggling with learning difficulties. She is thrilled to be an integral part of the dynamic and innovative Arrowsmith community. She holds a Master of Education in Leadership, and Supervisory Officer and Principal qualifications, along with Specialists in Special Education and Reading.