What goes on in a dyscalculia assessment?

Does your child struggle with picking up mathematical concepts, have difficulty carrying out calculations accurately and fluently, or find word problems very challenging? If so, you may wonder if these difficulties are caused by an underlying learning difficulty such as dyscalculia. To determine if this is the case, a comprehensive psych-educational assessment should be considered to establish your child’s learning profile, ascertain a diagnosis if any, and to identify appropriate learning or support strategies that could help to optimise your child’s learning. You may ask, “What can I expect from an assessment for dyscalculia?” In this article, we aim to share what the components of such an assessment are. Read on to find out more.

Components of a dyscalculia assessment

Although dyscalculia is a specific learning disorder whereby a child struggles in the area of mathematics, the assessment will evaluate other domains besides mathematics skills. Hence, a psycho-educational assessment for dyscalculia will span several hours. This may be conducted within the same day or over two different days.

Firstly, the assessment will include an evaluation of your child’s cognitive abilities. This is what people commonly refer to as a cognitive or an intelligence test. Various aspects of cognitive abilities, such as your child’s verbal ability, reasoning ability, memory, and information processing speed, will be tested. Some cognitive subtests measuring skills more related to mathematics, such as mental arithmetic and speed in estimating quantities, may also be included. As a child’s cognitive abilities can have a significant impact on his or her learning capacity and may in some cases be the reason underlying difficulties in mathematics instead of dyscalculia, the cognitive test is an essential component of the assessment.

Beyond the cognitive test, an achievement test to assess your child’s level of attainment in various aspects of mathematics will be conducted. The range of mathematics skills measured ranges from the more fundamental to the more advanced skills. For example, your child will be tasked to perform the 4 basic mathematical operations, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, to determine his or her accuracy and fluency. There will be components evaluating your child’s knowledge and understanding of core concepts, such as measurement of quantities, numeration, geometry, algebra, and probability, as well as application of concepts in the context of word problem-solving. Since reading and comprehension skills are prerequisite skills for making sense of mathematical word problems, these skills may also be assessed.

The information collected through these tests will be interpreted together with information obtained from parents and teachers. This provides a fuller picture of a child’s strengths and weaknesses to help determine if his or her struggles in mathematics are due to dyscalculia and/or other issues.

What comes next?

Following the assessment, findings such as the child’s learning profile, diagnosis (if any), and recommendations will be shared with parents/guardians. These recommendations may include intervention programmes, access arrangements and learning strategies where appropriate. Parents/guardians may wish to highlight any of their remaining concerns and seek clarifications from the psychologist where needed.

This article was written by the SpLD Assessment Services Team – Pei Yi and Winston

Find out more about our SpLD Assessments Services