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How to Adapt the Workplace for Employees with Number Blindness Caused by Dyscalculia

  • Published: 2011-04-19 (Revised/Updated 2013-03-24) : Author: iansyst Ltd
  • Synopsis: Dyscalculia is a neurological condition which impairs peoples ability to use and process numbers.

Main Document

"Many people with dyscalculia have excellent communication and literacy skills but the condition means that even the most basic mathematical problems can be daunting or even impossible."

Abi James, Head of Product Innovation at iansyst Ltd (, provides advice for organizations and managers on how to recognize the symptoms of dyscalculia and outlines some simple strategies for creating a more productive workplace.

Imagine that your working day begins like this: you wake up but cannot tell the time; you go to the shop but are unable to count your change; and then you go to catch your train but when you check the timetable you have no concept of fifteen minutes from now.

For approximately six percent of the workforce who have dyscalculia, these scenarios are a daily reality. For human resources (HR) departments and line managers, this condition may result in having to work with a highly creative, driven and charismatic employee who has poor time keeping and organizational skills, issues with punctuality or an inability to handle budgeting or maths tasks that would appear to be basic to the average worker.

Dyscalculia is a neurological condition which impairs people's ability to use and process numbers. Completely unrelated to intelligence, it affects approximately 1.8 million people in the UK in a variety of subtle and extreme ways. These include difficulties with simple maths tasks, trouble with navigation, inability to estimate time or distance or comprehending financial information.

Although first diagnosed in 1974, there is still relatively little known about it. Therefore, to ensure that organizations get the best out of each employee, it is vital for HR and management teams to learn to recognize its signs, understand what the condition is and how it affects people. As a result, they will be able to put into place strategies that will help to create a more productive organization.

Recognizing the signs of Dyscalculia

Many people with dyscalculia have excellent communication and literacy skills but the condition means that even the most basic mathematical problems can be daunting or even impossible. Easy to spot signs include repeated difficulty with written numbers. This is because they can visualize the solutions even though they may be unable to read or write them.

Some other warning signs include a conscientious and diligent worker who avoids tasks involving maths or a good team leader who struggles with organizing shifts, managing budgets or timings. Finally, because dyscalculics may have grown up feeling less than capable they will often avoid pursuing promotion to reduce the potential of having to take on additional numbers-based work.

Management training

Line managers have the greatest amount of day-to-day contact with employees that have dyscalculia so it is vital that they are armed with the knowledge to maximize their employee's potential. Therefore, training on what 'hidden disabilities' are and how to work with affected employees should be included within their continuing professional development (CPD) program.

Workload planning / office environment

Where possible, management should avoid giving number heavy assignments to the employee. It has been estimated that the average person uses maths up to 14 times a day, so allowing extra time for these tasks can help to reduce stress and improve performance. It must always be remembered that academically the employee is more than capable so providing tangible objects such as paper clips that they can move back and forth will greatly help their counting ability.

In situations where maths is unavoidable, managers should ensure that they have given clear and concise instructions and that the employee has written them down and understands them. In addition, when put under stress, working to tight deadlines or other situations that require intense concentration, the quality of the employee's work may suffer. Therefore, offering a quiet room free from distractions or providing the opportunity to work from home on occasion can have significant benefits.

Utilize available technologies

There are a number of strategies using basic and more specialist technologies that can have significant benefits on the employee's workflow and output. For example, a simple program for helping an employee better manage their time can be achieved through the use of the alarms on their mobile phone or the calendar in their email system. By taking just a couple of minutes at the beginning of each day to ensure that the day's key meetings and events are pre-programmed, the line manager has provided the necessary support to the employee while also empowering them to manage their own time.

Easily accessible technologies are available online and include speaking calculators and text-to-speech software systems which remove the need for the employee to read and comprehend the number. For example, a dyscalculic knows what five is but won't necessarily understand the figure 5.


As dyscalculia is recognized as an official disability under The Equality Act 2010, Government-funded grants are available through Access to Work (AtW), which is operated by Job Center Plus. If an employee applies for funding within the first six weeks they are employed with you, AtW will cover up to 100% of the costs of the reasonable adjustments. If the application is made after the 6 weeks, then AtW may cover a significant amount of the costs but this is dependent on the type and size of your organization..

iansyst Ltd has specialized in the area of hidden disabilities, such as dyscalculia, for over 27 years and delivers a range of advice, software and computer technologies to enable people to achieve their potential. For further information, please contact iansyst Ltd on Tel: +44 (0)1223 420 101 or visit the website

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