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Dyscalculic Thinking?


What would dyscalculic thinking look like?

Dyscalculic Thinking? 

Peter Cherry 

In May, the organisation Made By Dyslexia announced that ‘dyslexic thinking’ had been added as a term on dictionary.com and as a skill on LinkedIn.

Based on research funded by Made By Dyslexia, Virgin and LinkedIn, ‘dyslexic thinking’ shone a light on the skills that people with dyslexia can have and can bring to workplaces.

Dictionary.com defined dyslexic thinking as ‘an approach to problem solving, assessing information, and learning, often used by people with dyslexia, that involves pattern recognition, spatial reasoning, lateral thinking, and interpersonal communication.’ LinkedIn explained that dyslexic thinking includes: analytical thinking and innovation, complex problem-solving, critical thinking and analysis, learning strategies and leadership.

Since the launch of the campaign, over 10,000 people have added ‘dyslexic thinking’ to their LinkedIn profiles.

It was extremely moving to see social media posts by people with dyslexia who felt a sense of pride after years of feeling ashamed or embarrassed about their learning difference. It was also powerful to see negative perceptions of dyslexia challenged by the campaign.

However, it also leads dyscalculics to wonder what ‘dyscalculic thinking’ might look like and whether there would ever be a time in which a similar campaign could be launched for dyscalculia.

Dyscalculia is frequently described as ‘dyslexia in maths’ and, while this may be a helpful shorthand, it overlooks some critical differences between these two learning differences. Not least that many people with dyscalculia – like myself – do not have dyslexia.

My own discomfort with this was exacerbated by a comment left on a recent video about dyscalculia that I made with National Numeracy for National Numeracy Day. One person  remarked how they had never heard of dyscalculia before and found the interview informative but were disappointed by the ending when I didn’t label any positive attributes that dyscalculics could contribute to a workplace or to society.

The truth of the matter is that little is known about dyscalculia. As the Dyscalculia Network’s Rob Jennings put it in a recent episode of the Reasons to Be Cheerful podcast, dyscalculia is about ten years behind dyslexia in terms of research and awareness. Meanwhile, people with dyslexia are about 100 times more likely to be diagnosed than someone with dyscalculia.

But the effects of dyscalculia are very real.

Since becoming more open about my dyscalculia, people write to me with the same experiences again and again and again. One of these is that Dyscalculic adults are unable to pass their GCSE Maths and are blocked from employment opportunities or, as is a potential government policy, university funding. Another is that dyscalculics are declaring their learning difficulty in job interviews only or potential employers to respond by saying they don’t know what dyscalculia is. A third common experience is employers who become frustrated with dyscalculic employees being unable to process numerical data fast enough and, in some circumstances, this leading to their dismissal.

With all this in mind, it can be a real struggle to feel positive and empowered as a dyscalculic. But I still think speaking up is what we must do.

Collectively we must push for greater awareness of dyscalculia and this is at the heart of what the Dyscalculia Network does. Only with greater awareness can we help others realise that dyscalculia exists, how it shapes peoples’ lives and hopefully encourage people to research dyscalculia so that we may better understand it. Maybe then, we can start to understand what dyscalculic thinking is and share the pride of those who can claim ‘dyslexic thinking’ as a skill.

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