count, don't count - Inside Out London explores number blindness
BBC ONE London, Monday 2 February, 7.30pm
many as five to six per cent of the population– or 400,000
people in London - could be suffering from number blindness, or
dyscalculia as it is known.
people have heard of dyslexia - a learning difficulty associated
with reading - but few people are aware of dyscalculia, a condition
which is only just beginning to receive attention.
are the findings of a specialist team of psychologists at University
College London led by Professor Brian Butterworth and revealed on
BBC London's Inside Out programme (Monday 2 February, 7.30pm, BBC
is a simple failure to make sense of numbers - an inability to distinguish
and process numbers. The difference between figures and numbers
is indistinguishable to those who have dyscalculia.
India Thain copes very well with her dyscalculia and is receiving
a lot of specialist help in a private school in Hammersmith.
teacher, Dorien Yeo, says: "..the whole label of being stupid
is one that tends to stick with dyscalculics."
who have dyscalculia are rarely identified in mainstream schools.
Instead they are labelled as bad at maths or stupid when, in fact,
what they have is really no more than number blindness.
there is no special government provision for identifying or treating
Butterworth says: "It was exactly the same with dyslexia 20
years ago and the government made special provision for dyslexics
but as yet there is no recognition or help for the treatment of
those who are dyscalculics."
Moorcraft has been a noted war correspondent and writer for over
30 years. Yet he has struggled with numbers since he was a child.
He only realised that he had dyscalculia when he went to see Professor
says: "It's still a problem. I get confused between £10
and £20 notes. I had a problem with numbers at school because
my arithmetic ability was zero. A joke was made out of it because
I was good at other subjects.
time I developed strategies for dealing with it and fortunately
I have a photographic memory, so I have a limited range of numbers
that I remember and with things like telephone numbers I get people
to repeat the numbers to me and remember them that way."
blindness is a problem for those who have it and Professor Butterworth
believes that identifying the affliction early on in childhood can
lead to more effective treatment.
team have developed a simple computer programme – a test that
lasts 20 minutes – to determine whether people are affected
aims to spot the children who are having difficulty recognising
the numbers on the screen. If a student fails the test, it is a
strong indicator of dyscalculia.
Out went to Hackney Community College to try out the test on 31
students aged between 14 and 21 and of all abilities. A few find
it a bit difficult, including one of the teachers, but most passed
with flying colours.
students failed – around the average that Professor Butterworth
correlates with what the Head of Maths at Hackney College already
knows. He says that around one in twenty students needs help with
numbers, about five per cent.
Butterworth estimates that five to six per cent of the population
could suffer from number blindness.
blindness may well be a bigger problem than anyone first thought
and it will require specialist help and money to overcome.
Moorcroft says: "Just because you can't count, doesn't mean
you don't count. People who have this problem are not thick. They
have an inability with numbers but they can achieve a great deal
in other areas."
ONE London, Monday 2 February, 7.30pm
the BBC's digital services are now available on Freeview,
the new free-to-view digital terrestrial television service, as well
as on satellite and cable.
offers the BBC's eight television channels, interactive services
from BBCi, as well as 11 national BBC radio networks.