Creating a deeper understanding of dyscalculia with a simulator

Jacob Frølund Davis, Nina Genster, Simone Lindhøj Rasmussen, Johan Kørvel Sørensen, Pernille Bødtker Sunde

Research output: Contribution to conference without a publisher/journalAbstractResearchpeer-review


For a non-dyscalculic person it can be difficult to comprehend the difficulties
dyscalculic persons experience. This is also the case for mathematics teachers.
If you cannot comprehend the difficulties, it can be difficult to spot and act on
them as well. With this developmental project we wanted to support a better
understanding of the difficulties dyscalculic persons experience, especially in
the mathematics lessons. We seek to answer the following questions:
Can a simulator experience provide a deeper insight into how a dyscalculic
person experience numbers and the processing of numbers?
Can this insight support mathematics teachers in planning and organising
classroom teaching to better support dyscalculic students?
The design of the simulator was guided by research and interviews with
expert researchers and practitioners as well as a person with dyscalculia.
We developed three series of tasks typical of a mathematics lesson and
manipulated them to simulate the difficulties a dyscalculic person would
experience. One example is a calculation task written in blue but disguised
with red text and drawings making it difficult to find the numerical information
necessary to perform the calculations. Furthermore, the calculator on which
the participants were to do all calculations were manipulated during the
participants work; numbers were randomly assigned and occasionally a number
was missing.
Testing the prototype
The first prototype was tested on three university students without
mathematical difficulties. Each participant completed a 25 minute session in a
setting simulating a classroom lesson. The participant’s actions and responses
were videorecorded for further analysis.
To evaluate the use of the simulation with teachers, we asked teacher students
to describe what behaviour they noticed in the video recordings and reflect
on how students with dyscalculia or severe mathematical difficulties could be
supported in the classroom.
Preliminary results
From the video recordings, we can observe a range of behaviour typical for
students in mathematical difficulties, such as frustration, loss of trust in own
ability, resignation and indifference towards the tasks. From the work with the
teacher students we found that the video recordings provided them with an
insight into what a dyscalculic student endures during a normal mathematics
lesson. They engaged vividly in discussions on what aspects of the tasks
and “the teacher’s” behaviour that enforced or remedied the participants
experienced difficulties. This led to suggestions on how to support students
in the classroom. From these preliminary results, it seems that a dyscalculia
simulator has the potential to provide insight into how students with dyscalculia
experience numbers and a typical mathematics lesson.
The next step is to develop an online platform where the simulator will be made
available together with background information on dyscalculia. This will be
presented at the conference. We hope to be able to give teachers and future
teachers a better insight into how a person with dyscalculia can experience
numbers and mathematics, and thereby be able to give them the help they
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023
EventNORSMA 11: The Nordic Research network on Special Needs Education in Mathematics - DPU Aarhus Universitet, Tuborgvej 164, 2400 Copenhagen NV, Denmark
Duration: 23 Nov 202324 Nov 2023


ConferenceNORSMA 11
LocationDPU Aarhus Universitet, Tuborgvej 164
City2400 Copenhagen NV
Internet address


  • learning, educational science and teaching
  • NORSMA 11

    Heidie Clemens (Speaker)

    23 Nov 202324 Nov 2023

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesConference


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