Rob Jennings from The Dyscalculia Network provides an overview on Numeracy Assessments.


Numeracy assessments are carried out as a response to numeracy difficulties exhibited by a pupil over a sustained period of time. They can take many forms; utilising simple tasks on a paper with a pencil  through to complex online batteries of tests. 

What are numeracy difficulties?

These are best considered as a spectrum and not a specific category. They have many causal factors. Dyscalculia falls at one end of this spectrum and can be differentiated from other maths issues by the severity of difficulties such as:

  • Number Sense (which includes subitising)
  • The relative judgement of more or less.
  • The absence of strategies to compensate for lack of recall. To name just a few!

Why do we assess pupils for numeracy difficulties?

For a pupil to be assessed, concerns are generally raised by, the parents, teaching staff or the SENCO and sometimes by all three. These issues needs to be consistent difficulties displayed over a period of time. The difficulties may remain despite the support provided initially in school and the assessment will provide a much deeper analysis of the problems.

Purpose of Maths assessments

An assessment is a tool for investigating a pupil’s numerical abilities in order to plan an intervention-teaching program to help the individual, who is struggling with maths.

Types of assessment

Some assessments provide a standardised score and percentile ranking. This enables us to compare scores against pupils of similar age. This score also allows us to quantify the effectiveness of the teaching intervention program put into place after the initial assessment. Generally, the assessment can be re-taken and scored after a minimum period of 6 months.

There is a publication in this field, that I would like to recommend,

Jane Emerson & Patricia Babtie’s book, ‘The Dyscalculia Assessment’,

This book is straightforward and easy to use and it will provide you with all of the tools needed to carry out a successful assessment of a child, who is struggling with maths difficulties.

For example:

  • This book provides a clear guide to setting out a diagnostic numeracy assessment and to provide recommendations to help put in place a specific teaching intervention plan for a pupil.
  • The work has been devised to identify specific numeracy problems rather than to diagnose a condition.
  • It was initially designed for use with primary children, but can also be used for secondary and adults.
  • It provides a detailed investigation into what a pupil can do, as well as what they can’t, by providing a list of strengths and weaknesses.
  • The book is broken down into distinct sections, which allows the assessor to make specific notes on individual topics.
  • It recommends that the assessment is carried out in an informal, relaxed and friendly atmosphere, as this will reduce any maths anxiety in the pupil.
  • If we use the book’s guidelines, then the assessment can be carried out by maths teachers, SEN specialist teachers, SENCOs and teaching assistants, with experience of low level numeracy.

It is recommended that whatever assessment is used, it is important to compile a more detailed picture of the individual we are assessing, including:

  • Detailed notes of not only the pupil’s answers, but also their strategies used (fingers?) and their overall knowledge and attitude to maths.
  • Compiling feedback from the pupil’s parents and teachers, to help understand the background to their maths difficulties. This includes reports from Educational Psychologists and other educational professionals.
  • Identifying any co-occurring conditions such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD, which will certainly impact upon the pupil’s maths difficulties.

Rob Jennings @ The Dyscalculia Network          Jan 2021