Dyscalculia

When difficulties with maths is something more.

Math Exercises

Lots of kids struggle with maths and for many, it is far from their favourite subject. But if your child’s math troubles are serious and don’t seem to get better, they may be a sign of something called dyscalculia. While not all difficulties with maths are caused by dyscalculia, disorders like dyslexiavisual or auditory processing, ADHD, and others can also impact a child’s ability to meet expectations in completing math problems. It’s also possible for kids who do have dyscalculia to have other learning disabilities as well. 

So what is Dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia is a term used to describe a specific learning disability that affects a child’s ability to understand, learn, and perform math and number-based operations. Dyscalculia refers to a wide range of difficulties with maths, including weaknesses in understanding the meaning of numbers, and difficulty applying mathematical principles to solve problems. Dyscalculia is rarely identified early. The biggest sign of a specific learning disorder is a notable discrepancy between ability and aptitude. A kid with dyscalculia may perform well in other subjects — such as English or history — but have very low grades in math and math-based classes. In the DSM-5, dyscalculia is called “specific learning disability with impairment in mathematics,” but “dyscalculia” is still an accepted term and is used by schools and learning specialists. while it’s not as well known or as understood as dyslexia, some experts believe it’s just as common. That means an estimated 5 to 10 percent of people might have dyscalculia.

What to look for in a child.

A young child with dyscalculia may:

  • Have difficulty recognizing numbers

  • Be delayed in learning to count

  • Struggle to connect numerical symbols (5) with their corresponding words (five)

  • Have difficulty recognizing patterns and placing things in order

  • Lose track when counting

  • Need to use visual aids — like fingers — to help count

 

And as math becomes a major part of the school day, kids with dyscalculia are likely to:

  • Have significant difficulty learning basic math functions like addition and subtraction, times tables and more

  • Be unable to grasp the concepts behind word problems and other non-numerical math calculations

  • Have difficulty estimating how long it will take to complete a task

  • Struggle with math homework assignments and tests

  • Have difficulty keeping at grade-level in math

  • Struggle to process visual-spatial ideas like graphs and charts

However, the impact of Dyscalculia does not just relate to the school environment. The disorder can also affect kids outside of school. Children with dyscalculia also:

  • Have trouble remembering numbers such as zip codes, phone numbers, or game scores

  • Struggle with money matters such as making change, counting bills, calculating a tip, splitting a check or estimating how much something will cost.

  • Have difficulty judging the length of distances and how long it will take to get from one location to another

  • Struggle to remember directions

  • Have a hard time telling left from right

  • Get easily frustrated by games that require consistent scorekeeping, number strategies or counting

  • Have difficulty reading clocks and telling time

How is Dyscalculia diagnosed?

The only way to get a diagnosis is through an evaluation performed by a psychologist. This can happen at any age. Psychologists will recommend at least 6 months of evidence-based targeted intervention before a diagnosis is given. This is because they are looking to see if there is a deficit due to instructional reasons or is it a persistent learning difficulty. The assessment process will involve testing for other areas because people with dyscalculia often also struggle in other areas, like reading or working memory. But evaluations don’t just point out challenges. They also show strengths. A diagnosis of dyscalculia can sound scary. But many people find it a relief to know that their challenges with math are real. Plus, getting the right supports can help them thrive in school, work, and everyday life.