Dyscalculia: A Mathematical Learning Disability

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Dyscalculia: A Mathematical Learning Disability


We all know that mathematics is not the easiest subject to master, and for the few individuals who dare to seek out a career in mathematics; there will always be a fair amount of people who will not want anything to do with math. But as much as we don’t like to hear it, mathematics is an essential skill to master, especially as we grow older. As children attending public or private school, we grew up learning the foundational knowledge to basic math skills. Yet, some students struggle with the ability to learn the simplest of number-related concepts and calculations. If any of the following conditions apply to you, then there may be an underlying condition that many call dyscalculia:

  • Difficulty learning number-related concepts
  • Poor performance in math calculations
  • High levels of mathematics anxiety
  • The default operation is addition
  • Poor knowledge and sense of place values and number estimation

Other symptoms include difficulties with counting, struggles with basic mental math computations, and difficulty telling time and direction. Persistent finger counting could also act as a harbinger to the development of dyscalculia.

What is Dyscalculia?

According to Additude Magazine, dyscalculia is a learning disability that makes math challenging to process and understand. It is sometimes referred to as “number dyslexia” or “math dyslexia.” For children living with other learning disabilities such as ADD or ADHD, an estimated 11% will have dyscalculia as well. In addition to those with ADHD, a well-known statistic states that 45% of those who have other common learning disabilities such as dyslexia or dysgraphia will be diagnosed with dyscalculia.

What are the Causes of Dyscalculia?

Studies have shown that this specific disability tends to run in families through genetics, therefore relating the cause of the disability to be connected to early developmental brain issues. Apart from this knowledge, the exact causes for dyscalculia remain unknown. Another type of dyscalculia- acquired Dyscalculia or (acalculia) refers to the loss of skill in mathematical skills and concepts due to previous brain injuries and/or other cognitive impairments.

How is Dyscalculia Diagnosed?

Dyscalculia gets categorized under the “specific learning disorder” (SLD) section of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. To receive an SLD diagnosis, an individual must meet the following criteria:

  • Individuals with dyscalculia exhibit difficulties with learning and using academic skills
  • Difficulties with mastering numbers and reasoning
  • Symptoms of dyscalculia routinely cause disruptions at school, work, or daily life.

Dyscalculia Treatments and Accommodations

Unfortunately, there is no cure for children or adults with dyscalculia; this learning disorder will last their entire life. Luckily, some special accommodations can help with the early development of dyscalculia. The goal is to fill in as many learning gaps as possible to develop skills students can use as a coping mechanism. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), students with dyscalculia become eligible for special education services within the classroom. Services and accommodations for students with dyscalculia include:

  • Extensions on assessments and assignments
  • Use of calculators for mathematic computations
  • Adjusting the difficulty of the tasks at hand
  • Breaking down problems into smaller steps
  • Extra visual graphics

With the right learning accommodations and modifications, students can better manage the dyscalculia and slow it down, as they get older. Developing these coping mechanisms at a young age will help so many students in the future who struggle with dyscalculia, and finding them support will grant them an easier path to success.