Maths Learning Difficulties and Dyscalculia Service

What we offer

We offer assessments for children and adults 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 open and taking face-to-face appointments. Please read 'What to expect' below, and use the enquiry form to organise an appointment.

  • 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 (eg 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, who ran 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, and Associate Professor Judi Humberstone are all members of this research laboratory, which focuses 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 on ABC Radio National's website). One of the children in that program - Lucie - was identified by our lab as being dyscalculic.

    Brian, Bob 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 13. However, we have recently expanded our battery of tests to collect and analyse data for older children and adults.

    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 eight 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 and work at national and international meetings.

    Judi Humberstone oversees 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 in 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.

    In mid-2019, we made a series of five videos about maths learning difficulties and Dyscalculia in collaboration with the Victorian Department of Education and Training. Watch the videos on Youtube.

  • What to expect: student testing

    If you suspect that your child has a maths learning difficulty 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, and someone from the Maths Learning Difficulties and Dyscalculia service will contact you about an appointment date and time.

    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.

    All testing takes place on Fridays at the University of Melbourne Psychology Clinic (Level 2, 138-146 Cardigan Street, Carlton) and lasts up to 1 hour 15 minutes (with a 10-minute break after approximately 40 minutes, if needed).

    There is a $407 fee for testing (including 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.

  • What to expect: adult testing

    If you suspect that you or your adult child has a maths learning difficulty or Dyscalculia, please complete this form. Someone from the Maths Learning Difficulties and Dyscalculia service will contact you about an appointment date and time.

    We use a series of tests that we have found, from our research, provide the most accurate picture of an individual's basic understanding of number. Our battery of tests was recently updated to include appropriate measures for older students and adults.

    All testing takes place on Fridays at the University of Melbourne Psychology Clinic (Level 2, 138-146 Cardigan Street, Carlton) and lasts up to 1 hour 15 minutes (with a 10-minute break after approximately 40 minutes, if needed).

    There is a $407 fee for testing (including GST), which includes the report which will be sent to you about three weeks after testing.

    We do we not offer an intervention program equivalent to the one offered for school-age students. However, when we send out the adult reports, we include some links to materials that you can access to assist you in managing number manipulation.

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

    Research program

    While you are waiting for an appointment time, we have an exciting opportunity to join a research program at the University of Melbourne.

    Dr Jacob Paul (jacob.paul@unimelb.edu.au) is setting up a research program involving adults with self-assessed Dyscalculia. If you'd like to be part of this project, please reach out to Jacob. He will provide you with more information about the study and extend an invitation to participate.