Maths Learning Difficulties and Dyscalculia Service

What we offer

We offer assessments for children with maths learning difficulties and dyscalculia (a more severe form of math difficulty).

Please note:
The Maths Learning Difficulties and Dyscalculia testing service is currently unavailable as a result of COVID-19 restrictions at the University of Melbourne. We will not be able to resume until members of the public are permitted to come onto the Parkville campus which we understand will not be before late August, 2020 at the earliest.

When we are permitted to re-open, we will prioritise the backlog of clients who were booked for testing in March and April before the Clinic closed.

  • What are Maths Learning Difficulties and Dyscalculia?

    Numeracy is often described as the knowledge, skills and behaviours that allow students to use mathematics in a range of everyday, study, personal, and workplace contexts. Number, measurement and geometry, and statistics and probability are important for participation in society. Algebra, functions and relations, logic, mathematical structure, and working mathematically is important in understanding the world. Throughout their schooling, students are introduced to increasingly sophisticated and challenging mathematical ideas, including maths fluency, reasoning, modelling, and problem-solving. A grasp of these ideas enables students to engage with familiar and unfamiliar situations using mathematics to make well-informed decisions (Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority [VCAA], 2018).

    It is self-evident that today’s student needs to keep track of and process an unprecedented amount of numerical information. Nevertheless, despite the best efforts of teachers, some students experience maths learning difficulties (MLDs), and others a more severe form of math difficulty, known as Dyscalculia (Butterworth, 2005). The impact of Dyscalculia specifically is well known: adult dyscalculics are more likely to be unemployed and experience mental illness (Bynner & Parsons, 2006). Young students with Dyscalculia can experience peer rejection, self-concept difficulties and maths-related anxieties.

    Many authors have described changes in how MLD and Dyscalculia has been conceptualised over the last 20 years or so (see Butterworth, 2019; Chinn, 2015; Fritz et al., 2019). Broadly speaking, difficulties learning maths were viewed as reflecting a general cognitive difficulty (e.g., low IQ, poor working memory); they are now conceptualised in terms of unique, maths-specific cognitive functions. Based on current evidence, Dyscalculia is best considered a neurological and/or a genetic predisposition that reflects specific core numerical deficits (Butterworth et al., 2011). In other words, it is a specific maths difficulty phenomenon, comprising unique maths processing deficits that likely to have an organic origin (Butterworth, 2019). This characterisation has assessment and intervention implications, especially, in terms of the diagnosis of Dyscalculia in students.

  • Background information about the Maths Learning Difficulties and Dyscalculia Service

    Associate Professor Bob Reeve has run the Cognitive and Neuropsychological Development lab in the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne for over 25 years; Professor Brian Butterworth from University College, London, Dr Sarah Gray and Dr Judi Humberstone are all members of this research laboratory focussing specifically on maths learning difficulties in general and Dyscalculia specifically.

    You may have heard Professor Butterworth being interviewed about Dyscalculia on All in the Mind a couple of years ago (the podcast is available at: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/allinthemind/that-does-not-compute-the-hidden-affliction-of/2996350). One of the children in that program - Lucie - was identified by our lab as being dyscalculic.

    Brian, Bob, Sarah and Judi share an interest in the origin and nature of Dyscalculia and received funding from the Australian Government to study its prevalence in Australia (in Melbourne).  Our work principally focuses on the early identification of Dyscalculia in young children and the tests that we conduct are designed for children up to the age of 12. However, the data can sometimes be informative in older children.

    Brian Butterworth and Bob Reeve have been studying maths learning difficulties from clinical, educational and neuroscience perspectives for over 30 years. Brian wrote the highly influential book “The Mathematical Brain” and more recently “Dyscalculia - from Science to Education”.  He is responsible for setting-up one of the first Dyscalculia clinics in London. Prior to joining the University of Melbourne, Bob was at the University of Illinois for 8 years and was involved in educational assessment programs designed to facilitate the maths skills of children with maths learning difficulties in Chicago and Oakland, California. Brian and Bob have published a large number of research papers and chapters on the nature of maths learning difficulties and frequently discuss their views/work at national and international meetings.

    Sarah Gray and Judi Humberstone are involved in the assessment of Dyscalculia and maths difficulties more generally at the University of Melbourne’s Psychology Clinic. Judi is a former Victorian Department of Education school principal with 23 years’ experience of teaching maths at the secondary level. She is a registered psychologist and was jointly responsible for setting up the Dyscalculia component of the Psychology Clinic at the University. Judi also provides advice to schools and parents on how best to help students with maths learning difficulties and Dyscalculia and presents at national and international meetings. Sarah is a registered psychologist who works in the Dyscalculia Clinic at the University of Melbourne, and with educational groups. She is particularly interested in how to provide students with maths learning difficulties with emotional supports. She has published a number of well-regarded papers on cognitive bases of Maths learning.

    In mid-2019 we made a series of 5 videos about maths learning difficulties and Dyscalculia in collaboration with the Victorian Department of Education and Training. The videos are available here: https://youtu.be/aZadVfLmepo

  • What to expect at the Maths Learning Difficulties and Dyscalculia Service

    If you suspect that your child has Maths Learning Difficulties or Dyscalculia you should first discuss this issue with the school your child is attending. The reason for this is that if, after testing, there is evidence of Dyscalculia, Dr Humberstone will attend regular learning support meetings at the school involving teachers and specialists to help to support your child in accessing the maths curriculum. It is important that the school is aware of this in advance. Please complete this form to organise a time for someone at the Maths Learning Difficulties and Dyscalculia service to contact you.

    We use a series of tests that we have found, from our research, provide the most accurate picture of an individual student's basic understanding of number.

    The testing lasts approximately 1 hr 15 minutes altogether (with a 10-minute break after approximately 40 minutes).

    There is a $407 fee for testing (incl GST), which includes the report which will be sent to you about three weeks after testing for sharing with your child's school.

    The invoice will be sent to you directly from the University of Melbourne after the report has been completed.

    All testing takes place on Fridays at 9.30am or 11.30am at the University of Melbourne Psychology Clinic.