Dyscalculia – The Learning Challenge You’ve Never Heard Of

Dyscalculia is a learning disorder you’ve probably never of before. It is defined as a condition that involves long-term, severe difficulties with mathematics – which cause significant problems with academic or occupational performance, or with daily activities. Dyscalculia is often co-occurring with other conditions such as dyslexia and ADHD.

Some of the common signs of dyscalculia in young children are:

  • Using finger counting, even for simple arithmetic
  • Struggling to retrieve number facts from memory (such as times tables),
  • Struggling to learn new procedures.
  • Having trouble using calendars and clocks
  • Struggling with recalling the order of past events
  • Following sequential instructions

A more comprehensive list of symptoms, b age and grade level, can be found at Understood.org.

While much is still not known about the causes of dyscalculia, research has shown that it is about equally prevalent among boys and girls. Recent research has also shown that 80% of children with the condition have another learning disorder. Many experts now believe that dyscalculia is as common as dyslexia.Similar to dysexia, dyscalculia is a lifelong condition that affects individuals well beyond their school years.

Children with dyscalculia frequently go undiagnosed. In part this can be due to:

  • Practitioners have less experience diagnosing dyscalculia than other learning disorders such as dyslexia and ADHD
  • The condition can be obscured by the presence of a co-occurring condition
  • There is also no official guidance on how dyscalculic learners can be best supported
  • Teachers and parents have a tendency to believe that “math isn’t for ever one,” not realizing that a child’s struggle with numbers is a sign of a deeper learning disorder

While there is no standard treatment protocol yet, there are a number of things parents can do to help a child with dyscalculia, including

  • Practicing some basic concepts and procedures with them by manipulating everyday objects, such as beads or tokens, or
  • Playing simple number games.
  • Playing board games with dice – which can help to demonstrate basic number concepts
  • For older children, computer based math programs can also be used for repeated practice of arithmetic

The most important thing to do if you observe your child struggling with simple number sense is to seek help from your child’s doctor, educational specialists or psychologists trained to work with children having dyscalculia. The impacts of the disorder can affect your child’s future, both in school and in life. You can find more information and resources at dyscalculia.org.

This video shows what having dyscalculia can feel like:

Lost in numbers/ a dyscalculia documentary

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  1. Irene Jones

    I have dyslexia, dyspraxia & dyscalculia. I am 67 now & I have struggled all my life with maths, even basic maths I struggle with. I have gone back to college a number of times to do basic maths, however I found that the tutors did not have the knowledge or skills to help me. I have had a number of really embarrassing moments due to my disability. So pleased that it’s now on the reader.