Symptoms & Characteristics
Dyscalculia is a math learning disability that impairs an individual's ability to lean number-related concepts, perform accurate math calculations, reason and problem solve, and perform other basic math skills. The word dyscalculia comes from Greek and Latin and simply means counting badly. Today, the word serves as a broad term for learning difficulties in math. About 5% (3 - 6%) of people struggle with this learning disability.
Genetics can play a role, but the main cause is
generally due to weak cognitive skills and other cognitive impairments. Brain development can also be linked as a cause. Most people with dyscalculia have poor visual processing (visuospatial) and working memory skills. Moreover, 20 to 60% of those affected by dyscalculia have comorbid disorders such as dyslexia (~50%) or attention deficit disorder.
Difficulty working with and processing numbers and quantities such as connecting a number to the quantity it represents
Difficulty with ordering and comparing two or more amounts
Difficulty counting forwards and backwards
Trouble with subitizing (recognizing quantities without counting)
Trouble recalling basic math facts such as multiplication tables even after multiple repetition
Confusion over math symbols
Difficulty linking numbers and symbols to amounts and operations
Severe difficulty with basic math (adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing)
Reversing or transposing numbers
(89 becomes 98)
Difficulty with mental math and problem solving
Difficulty making sense of money and estimating quantities
Difficulty with telling time on an analog clock
Trouble telling time and direction
Problems grasping and remembering math
Trouble understanding positive vs negative values
Trouble with sequencing and recognizing patterns
Poor visual and spatial orientation
Difficulty immediately sorting out direction (right from left)
May have poor athletic coordination
Struggles with keeping score during games
Normal or accelerated language acquisition particularly if there is no other disorder
Dyscalculia can be hard to detect and students are rarely diagnosed at school. Many people with dyscalculia have normal or accelerated language acquisition, so parents simply sense that when it comes to math, something’s not connecting.
Dyscalculia appears under the Specific Learning Disorder (SLD) section of the DSM-5. According tot he DSM-5, an individual most meet these four criteria:
1. Exhibit at least one of six outlined symptoms related to difficulties with leaning and using academic skills which include mastering number sense and mathematical reasoning.
2. The affected academic skills are below what is expected for the individual's age which cause trouble with school, work, or daily life.
3. The learning difficulty began in school, even if problems only became acute in adulthood.
4. Other conditions and factors are ruled out including intellectual disabilities and neurological disorder, psychosocial adversity, and lack of instruction.
Diagnostic evaluations are carried out by school psychologists, and neuropsychologists.
Standardized tests and math ability tests when compared to same-age children
Cognitive skills testing
On-line testing combined with extensive parental documentation
Cognitive skills testing at BrainRx can pinpoint any weak mental skills that may be creating or contributing to the condition.
There is no cure or medication. Nevertheless, there are ways to improve and reduce symptoms or work around them.
Focusing on strengths: helps compensate for weak skills
Accommodation: students and teachers adapt to, and work around, limitations. Some accommodations include: extra time, allowing use of calculators, adjusting difficulty of tasks, separating complicated problems into smaller steps, using visual aids to remind basic concepts.
Tutoring: a short-term fix that can help students catch up (such as after an extended absence due to illness, injury or a family move)
Cognitive skills training: the only treatment that attacks the root of the problem by strengthening weak mental skills. Brain training can strengthen those skills to the point where the symptoms are eliminated, and math is easier, faster, and more fun.
National Center for Learning Disabilities
Math Learning Disability Resource
Learning Disabilities Association of America
All Kinds of Minds
The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds
BrainRx training was beneficial to understand who I am, my areas of strength and weakness. It was good to work with others on the exercises. It was worth the commitment. I feel it has helped me focus on areas of weakness that I can continue to work on, to improve and have a more fulfilled life.
- Caroline S.