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Solutions for Dyscalculia in Dubai with NLP

May 13th, 2013 by Tony Barlow

Dyscalculia in DubaiFor those of you who are not familiar with the word Dyscalculia it is associated with extreme difficulties with math and difficulties with numbers in general.

It may seem a bold claim that I can ‘correct’ Dyscalculia as it is thought of as some kind of neurological deficiency that you have to ‘cope’ with.

My own experience working with students tells me otherwise and the research into what Dyscalculia or Dyslexia actually are is still under debate among top researchers.

Over the years I have come across hundreds of students with the diagnosis of Dyscalculia in Dubai. Often I am the last resort, nobody has been able to help them, they have tried math tutoring to no avail. Many of these students have developed limiting beliefs about their abilities and in the vast majority of cases I have turned them around using NLP.

Hopefully by the end of this article you will be able to see why they are struggling with math, why math tutoring may not help and how to correct this problem using NLP.


As always I use the the NLP approach of ‘modeling excellence’ which goes like this:

  1. Find a student who is already excellent at learning Maths.
  2. Find out what they do INSIDE their thought process when they are: learning math facts, doing mental calculations, learning new math formulas, understanding math concepts etc.
  3. Teach the student who is struggling to do the same.


Here is a specific example from one of my students who had been diagnosed with Dyscalculia.

Hopefully from this example you will be able to see why this 9yr old was having trouble and exactly how I was able to turn around his Maths abilities.

I started by asking him the following question. “What’s 1 less than 4?”

It took him forever to respond, finally he came up with the answer “3”.

Everything else in math was like this for him, very very slow and sometimes he would come up with the right answer, sometimes not.

This is what he was doing INSIDE his thought process. There was a lot of steps !!

“What’s 1 less than 4”

  1. Picture a line in his mind ( few seconds to do this)
  2. Carefully number the line from 1 to 10 (10 secs to to this)
  3. Count down the whole line until he reached one less than 4 (slowly and carefully)
  4. “ten, nine, eight, seven, six, ….. three!”

The whole process took around 40 seconds.

No one had asked him what he did inside his mind before ! They just saw that he was very slow in Math compared to his peers, therefore the diagnosis.


Typically students who are having trouble have either missing steps in their mental thought process or to many steps.
My approach is very simple.
Take the thought process of a student who is doing well in math and teach the struggling student to do that !

In the above case, when I compared the thought process of this student to an excellent math student there was far to many unnecessary mental steps.  In fact, for a good math student, knowing what 1 less than 4 is does not have any steps.

The student in the above example already knew what 1 less than 4 was without going through the process above.

He had been dependent on his number line method, had come to trust doing it this way and he was sticking to it for to long.

When I told him “Ok, don’t picture the number line, don’t do anything, just tell me:

“What’s 1 less than 4?” he answered immediately “three”

“What’s 1 less than 7?”         “six”

I then proceeded to teach him effective thinking strategies for all the other parts of Math where he had issues and I typically found to many steps in his thought process.

Here is another example from the same student:

I asked him the following: “Whats 9 + 6 ?”

Again he was gone forever in a long drawn out thinking process. I uncovered his thought process using NLP and found this:

He pictured the 9 + 6 = and then started counting inside his mind from 1 to 9, then he visualized 6 fingers and counted up the fingers “10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15”. This took around 10-15 seconds and if the size of the numbers increased he was lost.

Students who do this kind of mental calculation well, simply visualize 1 coming out of the 6 and “15” appears unconsciously. They may have had more steps than this earlier such as adding the 1 to the 9 to make 10 but this is soon discarded.

I proceeded to teach the above student to reduce the number of steps in his mental process where needed and 3 weeks later a received and email from the teacher “He is now flying in Math !”


As with any other subject, schools do not teach students what to do inside their thought process. So if you have an ineffective mental process for learning math, you will struggle.

Math has an additional difficulty.  Math skills are built on top of each other. For example you need your basic times tables in other types of maths. So if you miss out on one aspect of math you will start to dig a deeper hole for yourself and fall further behind. Students I  see who have been diagnosed with Dyscalculia in Dubai are in this situation.

The vast majority of math issues can be resolved by teaching students more effective thinking strategies.

Once students start thinking like a good math student they will see immediate results and their self belief starts to shift and then you are well on your way to turning things around.

If you or your child are struggling with math please Contact Me for a free phone chat to find out more or to book a 1-2-1 session.

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