Dyscalculia – Specific Learning Disability in Mathematics

Dyscalculia refers to a specific learning disability in mathematics.

Individuals with dyscalculia suffer from an inability to memorize and retain mathematical concepts. In spite of their academic acuity in other subjects, those with dyscalculia are baffled when they read, understand and work math problems, but mysteriously forget how they did so, sometimes within an hour!

Dyscalculia affects 4 – 6 percent of the world population, yet it is relatively unknown. Like many learning disabilities, it is believed dyscalculia may be inherited, or is the result of brain damage or deficits during brain development. What is perhaps the most frustrating about dyscalculia is that students are generally gifted in most other academic subjects. In fact, the students might be in honors class, have excellent grades in other subjects and learn and retain other information with great facility.

Dyscalculics may exhibit normal or accelerated verbal, reading and writing skills and often possess above average poetic ability. They may also have good visual memory for the printed word. Most dyscalculics are good in science until they reach a level that requires higher math skills and do well in the creative arts. But dyscalculia can severely limit career choices and pursuit of higher education.

Why is dyscalculia such a big deal when we live in a world with computerized cash registers, laptops, handheld calculators, etc.? Dyscalculia can detrimentally impact every aspect of life. Those with this disorder will find even the most routine tasks involving numbers nearly impossible and at best, terribly challenging.

Measurements are challenging for a dyscalculic as well as conceptualizing time, counting or making change, reading a clock, keeping score during games, budgeting and any other activity that involves numbers and sequencing. Playing a musical instrument may be out of the question for some, as many dyscalculics have difficulty reading music and remembering the proper fingering sequences for playing a melody.

Some of the annoying habits of a friend or family member could actually be indicators of dyscalculia. Dyscalculics tend to be chronically late because they’re unable to keep track of time or to recall scheduled appointments or events. Those with dyscalculia seem to be absent minded, often lose things and frequently get lost or become disoriented because they have a poor sense of direction. Individuals with dyscalculia may not be able to remember names or may substitute names for others that begin with the same letter.

Dyscalculia sufferers may have difficulty keeping score during games and may often forget even how to keep score. Bowling, card games and board games are challenging for those with dyscalculia because they often lose track of whose turn it is! A game of strategy like chess would be next to impossible for many dyscalculics to play.

Dyscalculia causes inconsistent results in working math problems because they have poor mental math ability. Dyscalculics are poor with all types of money transactions and money management. Not only can they not balance a checkbook, they are unable to budget or do financial planning because they don’t have long-term financial thinking. When reading or writing numbers, dyscalculics may include extra numbers, substitute numbers, transpose, reverse or omit numbers altogether.

Athletics may be frustrating for dyscalculics because of poor coordination — even when they are in fine physical condition and have good muscle tone. They have difficulty remembering rules for playing sports and have difficulty keeping up with aerobics, dances or any type of exercise with frequent and rapid direction changes.

Some children receive intense tutoring and specialized education to help them compensate with their shortfall in mathematics. Often, however, dyscalculia goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed so proper intervention is often not done.

At Edublox, we aim not only at compensating but at

  • addressing the underlying shortcomings that interfere with math performance, such as visual perception, visuospatial memory and logical thinking;
  • teaching math skills in a sequential fashion, such as counting, adding, subtracting, multiplication, division, place value, fractions, reading time, etc.; as well as
  • teaching math knowledge.

Visit the Edublox website for more information or book a free consultation to discuss your child’s math learning needs.