Assistive Tools & Technology for Dyscalculia

Last Updated on October 2, 2023 by Editorial Team

Recently diagnosed with dyscalculia and thinking it might be the end of your academics? Worrying that your dyscalculic kid might have to struggle through simple algebra throughout his/her life? Will you be able to keep track of money spent and saved? Is your dream career even possible being a dyscalculic? Some common questions that will come to your mind on your first encounter with being dyscalculic. Well, the real question is…Is it?

The problem with dyscalculia is that it is still an under-researched and under-studied subject. Dyscalculia stays hidden behind the spotlight of Dyslexia. A worrisome fact is the numbers could be similar. A recent study that included observing the mathematics performance of 2,421 primary school children over a number of school years suggested that the number of pupils with dyscalculia is similar to those with dyslexia. But only  1 out of 108 ever received an official diagnosis. People need to learn how to differentiate dyscalculia from common math anxiety. If found with symptoms, get your child tested for dyscalculia ASAP. The earlier you catch it, the earlier you’ll be able to conquer it.

I am Dyscalculic…There I said it!

So, you just find out that you have Dyscalculia, now what? Well, this is certainly not the end of any road in your life or career. Just brush off that evil thought off your mind first. Take note that dyscalculia is not a disease that you expect to be cured. There is no medication for it. Dyscalculia is a learning disorder. It hinders your ability to do calculative tasks and solve other mathematical problems. Specialized strategic practice is the only way out of it.

What are my options?

You have plenty. Consult your evaluator about it. The evaluator will refer to several alter techniques in your or your kid’s study routine. Several resources, tools, and books specially created for this field will help you or your kid a long way in developing mathematical skills. This post doesn’t aim to make you go through different strategies involved in teaching a dyscalculic child. Another post explains in detail how to treat dyscalculia effectively with alternative approaches. Our focus in this post is whether Assistive Technology is as successful in helping people with dyscalculia as in people with other disabilities. We’ll curate a list of some widely used assistive tools and technology among dyscalculics.

Assistive tools and technology for dyscalculia

Conceptual learning of mathematics is the secret to understanding it fully. Without a sound knowledge of concepts of a mathematical task, even the brightest kids may fail to deliver a result let alone a kid with dyscalculia and math anxiety. Assistive devices related to math learning straight-up trigger the part of our brain that deals with concepts. A child with dyscalculia should take the help of these devices as much as possible while at home while dealing with mathematical problems.

1. Manipulative Blocks

Kids with dyscalculia have major struggles in counting in their early years. They generally skip numbers and get confused in sequences. The calculator is of no use this early as they are unable to solidify the basics of numbers yet. We discussed the benefit of using cubical blocks and similar objects in building number sense in our earlier blog post. Blocks can be of any type, cubes, rectangles, discs, dice, etc.

The main component is some kind of variation on each block, may it be different colors, or number of dots, or just numbers. A perfect example of learning counting through this method is by building and constructing different shapes from blocks. Turn it into a fun-loving game and your kid’s interest grows in the understanding numbers through this.

2. Graphing Tools

Graphing Tools

A major portion of errors committed in writing generally involves lining up numbers and words properly. A ‘3’ may be facing east at one place and west at the other. Similarly, ‘1’ may be erected diagonally at places or even above other numbers. Proper alignment of the numbers to form the question is important to understand it better through visualization.

Graph papers or other similar assistive tools can serve this purpose pretty well. Allowing to use of graph paper instead of regular math notebook paper will help students have clear and organized visuals of the problem. Matrices of boxes in the graph paper constraints the individual numbers, symbols, and operators and improve their understanding of how the concept works

3. Math Fact Cards

Math Fact Cards

Memorizing and recalling facts can pose a hindrance in the pace of learning concepts of the subject. While this is essential, it shouldn’t become a barrier to learning advanced math concepts. Hence, Students with learning disabilities, such as Dyscalculia and Dyslexia, must be allowed to use desk copies of math fact sheets or charts (for example, a multiplication table fact sheet that can be kept on the desk when needed) to help compensate for memory difficulties. This way we could ensure that they share the same opportunity of learning the subject with other students without getting stuck at learning the facts curriculum of the class.

4. Text-to-Speech (TTS) & Speech to Text

Text-to-speech and speech-to-text is a great tool for students who face reading and writing difficulties. Apps like Evernote widely use this technology as their prime function. We already discussed the inferior feeling in students on unable to do maths may have an overarching effect on other subjects as well.

Dyscalculic students dealing with severe symptoms may develop some characteristics of dyslexia as well. Reading issues are one of them. The confidence level may deteriorate. In such cases, tools Text to Speech and Speech to Text can do wonders.

5. Calculator


The use of a calculator is usually frowned upon in class but it can seriously benefit in the case of dyscalculia. First, it makes them more relaxed from the thought that they have to do heavy calculations. Calculators are helpful in understanding the concepts faster as students can focus more on the steps involved in the concept to arrive at the final answer. The use, however, must be tapered off gradually by encouraging students to do calculations on pen and paper.

6. Abacus

Abacus is a manual aid for calculating that consists of beads or disks that can be moved up and down on a series of sticks or strings within a usually wooden frame. It is considered one of the best ways to develop number sense. Numbers are physically constructed and manipulated in Abacus.

Practicing 10-15 minutes daily can effectively build your math calculative skills. If you hate to carry, You can use it in an app. Kids can try practicing mathematical basic operations through it. Abacus has proved to be greatly beneficial in building early number sense in kids.

7. Rekenrek aka  Arithmetic Rack

Rekenrek is a learning tool designed by Adrian Treffers, a mathematics curriculum researcher at the Freudenthal Institute in Holland, that provides a visual perspective of number relations and various mathematical operations, It consists of two rows of 10 beads. Larger versions with ten rows of ten beads are also available.

Each row is made of five red beads and five white beads. The setup allows students to prepare a mental image of numbers and use it (5 or 10) as an anchor for counting, adding, and subtracting. It’s important to let students get familiar with the concept first by letting them play with it for a while. Basic activity with Rekenrek involves asking to show a number (0-10) by moving the beads with one push. For numbers between 11 to 20 allow only 2 pushes.

Another good activity to perform using Rekenrek is by showing different ways of making a number. For this, use only the top row beads and cover the bottom row with a folded sheet of card or piece of fabric. Slide red beads to the left and white ones to the right. Take a random between 1 to 9 (say 7).

Perform different ways of making 7 like sliding 1 red and 6 white, 4 red and 3 white, and 5 red and 2 white beads to the center. Once children are confident using the top row, combinations can be found using both the top and bottom rows. Children can record the different ways they find to build the given number.

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