Published on April 15, 2023

In Singapore, many students have difficulties with math, so they struggle in school and in doing their homework. More than 10% of every cohort of students does not attain the minimum requirement level for the PSLE. A large group of students who have been diagnosed with Dyslexia or ADHD has difficulties in mathematics, some may have dyscalculia as well.

How can we distinguish between math difficulties and dyscalculia? Dyscalculia is a descriptive term that refers to severe, persistent, and unexpected difficulties in mathematics. Students often have math anxiety. The cause of this specific learning disorder is unknown. Without a diagnosis of dyscalculia, students are at risk for negative experiences in school, including lower achievement level in mathematics, a lower self-esteem level, difficulties in handling money, and higher levels of stress and frustration. Some students may act out while others are at risk of developing anxiety or depression.

Parents or teachers often notice that the student has difficulty mastering early math skills. In primary school, even after engaging a private tutor, the student’s progress is slower compared with their classmates. Students with dyscalculia may have (some of) the following characteristics:

  • Poor number sense; does not “see” it (e.g., different ways of calculating the same sum)
  • Poor estimation skills, very slow at mental math
  • Anxiety, avoidance, and frustrations while doing mathematics
  • Difficulties with early numeracy skills (counting forward or backward, cardinality, etc.)
  • Difficulties with basic mathematical operations (+ - x ÷)
  • Inconsistent answers; sometimes guessing
  • Using fingers to count; slow work pace
  • Great difficulties with problem sums
  • Difficulties understanding place value, math concepts, rules, formulas, and sequences
  • Forgets mastered skills easily; poor retention and retrieval
  • Tuition/remedial classes do not seem to help; students have low scores on tests and exams

For more information on assessments for Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, ADHD and individual support, please call/message Helmy at 9823 4422 or visit the website at:

Helmy Faber is a Registered Psychologist (RPS-Singapore), Postgraduate Dyscalculia Diagnostician and Author.                  


Category(s):Academic Issues, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Child Development, Dyscalculia, Dyslexia

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helmyfaber belongs to Vision Psychology in Singapore