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Dyscalculia Statistics: How Common Is It?

Dyscalculia, which means inability to calculate, is the most widely used term for disabilities in arithmetic and mathematics. Between 2 and 8 percent of children have dyscalculia.

A definition matters in statistics

Dyscalculia is a learning disability that affects a person’s ability to understand number-based information and math.

Sometimes the term acalculia is used to refer to a complete inability to use mathematical symbols, and the term dyscalculia is reserved for less severe problems in these areas. Developmental dyscalculia may be used to distinguish the problem in children and youth from similar issues experienced by adults after severe head injuries.

There is no general agreement on the precise meaning of the term dyscalculia. Reports of dyscalculia’s prevalence, therefore, vary depending on the definition and situation.

Prevalence varies between 2-8%

Research suggests that dyscalculia has the exact prevalence of dyslexia (about 6–8% of children), although it is far less widely recognized by parents and educators (Shalev, 2007; Ardila & Rosselli, 2002).

As with other learning disabilities, dyscalculia ranges from mild to severe and co-occurs with other developmental disorders, including dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

According to the British Dyslexia Association, dyscalculia and dyslexia occur both independently of each other and together. Research suggests that 40 to 50 percent of people with dyslexia show no signs of dyscalculia. They perform at least as well in math as other children, with about 10 percent achieving at a higher level. The remaining 50 to 60 percent do have difficulties with math. Best estimates indicate that somewhere between 3 and 6 percent of the population is affected with dyscalculia only — i.e., people who only have difficulties with math but have good or even excellent performance in other areas of learning.

Badian (1999) reports a prevalence rate of 6.9 percent, with 3.9 percent of these students low in arithmetic only and 3 percent low in arithmetic and reading. She suggests that researchers differentiate between children with arithmetic difficulties and those with both arithmetic and reading problems to prevent distorted interpretations of research.

Peard (2010) contends that dyscalculia figures generally include a significant proportion of students who are better called “learned difficulties” and that the incidence of a genuine learning disability in math — a permanent neurological disorder — is less than 2 percent. “Learned difficulties” include misconceptions, mental blocks, and attitudes that require a careful diagnosis to discover. Peard says that most students who experience problems with school mathematics fall into this category.
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Edublox offers live online tutoring to students with dyscalculia. Our students are in the United States, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere. Book a free consultation to discuss your child’s math learning needs..


Authored by Susan du Plessis (B.A. Hons Psychology; B.D.), an educational specialist with 30+ years of experience in learning disabilities.
Medically reviewed by Dr. Zelda Strydom (MBChB).


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Bibliography:

Butterworth, B., Varma, S., & Laurillard, D., (2011). Dyscalculia: From brain to education. Science, 332(6033), 1049-1053.

Hallahan, D. P., Kauffman, J., & Lloyd, J. (1985). Introduction to learning disabilities. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Czamara, D., Tiesler, C. M. T., Kohlböck, G., Berdel, D., Hoffmann, B., & Heinrich, J. (2013). Children with ADHD symptoms have a higher risk for reading, spelling and math difficulties in the GINIplus and LISAplus cohort studies. PLOS ONE, 8(5), e63859.

Shalev, R. S., Auerbach, J., & Gross-Tsur, V. (1995). Developmental dyscalculia: Attentional and behavioral aspects. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 36, 1261–1268.

Willcutt, E. G., Petrill, S. A., Wu, S., Boada, R., DeFries, J. C., Olson, R. K., & Pennington, B. F. (2013). Comorbidity between reading disability and math disability: Concurrent psychopathology, functional impairment, and neuropsychological functioning. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 46, 500–516.