Many students struggle with math. In most of these cases, this is due to a lack of proper guidance and resources. However, even if they have access to the necessary resources, some students may struggle to grasp basic math concepts. This may be due to a math-specific learning disability known as dyscalculia. This condition is sometimes called “math dyslexia” or “number dyslexia.” A dyscalculic person typically struggles to learn, understand, and practice mathematical concepts. In other words, numbers and math operations appear to them as abstract symbols that they can’t make sense of. They have difficulty with numbers in everyday life, such as money exchange, reading the time on an analog clock, and so on. However, it has been observed that these individuals perform reasonably well in other subjects.1
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How Common is it?
According to studies, more than half of the population is unaware of this learning disability, and 5–7% of elementary school students have dyscalculia in varying degrees. Furthermore, approximately 60% of dyslexic children suffer from dyscalculia in varying degrees.2
Signs and Symptoms of Dyscalculia
- Good at reading, writing, and speaking, but struggles with understanding basic math concepts
- Difficulty in recognizing numbers; delay in learning to count
- Trouble recalling basic math facts (like multiplication tables)
- Difficulty in counting money or making change; losing track while counting
- Inability to recollect phone numbers
- Reliance on counting with fingers even after being familiarized with more advanced methods of calculations.
- Difficulty in keeping score when playing games
- Unable to compare numbers and recognize patterns
These symptoms can appear in dyscalculic children in varying degrees. Students who are dyscalculic may not exhibit all of these symptoms. In fact, some students may find one math concept easy to grasp while finding another completely unrelatable. Some students, for example, may find it easy to learn to count but struggle to memorize the multiplication table. 1
- If a student is having a hard time learning math, consult your doctor to rule out any problems related to vision and hearing before making any conclusions about dyscalculia.
- Work with the teacher to identify the weak areas of the student and ensure that they are getting proper guidance.
- Assess the student’s performance in other areas. If the student is able to perform well in other subjects but struggles with math even after getting proper guidance, this may be a sign of dyscalculia. If the child is not able to perform well in any activity that involves reading and understanding, this may be a sign of dyslexia.
- Request an evaluation from a learning expert and don’t be afraid to ask for second opinions.
Dyscalculia Treatment and Accommodations
Dyscalculia has no known cure and is not treatable with medication. Special instructions, accommodations, and other coping mechanisms can help a student with dyscalculia succeed. Specially trained teachers can experiment with different learning strategies to determine which one is best for each dyscalculic student. Among the possible accommodations are:1
- Allowing the use of calculators
- Adjusting the difficulty of the tasks assigned
- Allowing extra time to complete tasks
- Using manipulatives to teach math concepts
- Trying out math games to boost confidence
How is Dyscalculia Related to Dyslexia and ADHD?
All students who struggle in math classes may not be dyscalculic. This can be a result of other disorders such as dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and dysgraphia.
Dyslexia and dyscalculia may sound like similar learning disorders, but dyslexia is a learning disorder that causes difficulty in reading, and dyscalculia is a learning disorder that causes difficulty in learning math. Since learning elementary math involves reading, dyslexic students may also find it difficult to perform well in math. But the difference here is that dyslexic students generally don’t have a problem understanding math concepts. But they struggle with reading and grasping math concepts during the process of learning. These students mostly struggle with grasping information from math word problems.
Children with ADHD may perform poorly in math classes because of their short attention span. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the student is dyscalculic. Some students with ADHD can perform well in math if their condition is accommodated in the teaching methods. But some students may have both dyscalculia and ADHD, and it may lead to poor performance in math.1
How can Parents Help Their Dyscalculic Children?
- Let the child use their fingers or other tangible objects to count.
- Make math relatable for them by playing board games and including them in household activities that include math (like cooking and baking).
- Praise the child for their efforts, and the results will improve gradually.
- Help with their homework by breaking down each question in a way that is easily comprehensible.
- Play with manipulatives in their free time to reinforce their understanding of math concepts.
The best thing to do to help out a child with dyscalculia is to experiment with various learning tools and methods. While there are various learning sources out there, we at BYJU’s Future School take pride in producing top-quality educational videos with best-in-class animations to aid our students. A visual approach to learning could help a child with dyslexia. Trying out a session with us wouldn’t cost you anything. You can try taking a free trial class, and if your child finds it comfortable to learn with our resources, maybe you can enroll them in our regular online classes. And since students with dyscalculia don’t have any problem performing well in other areas, we should definitely let them try out the coding and music classes that we offer!
Disclaimer: The information provided on this site is NOT medical advice and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, provide medical or behavioral advice, treat, prevent, or cure any disease, condition, or behavior. You should consult with a qualified healthcare professional regarding your child’s development to make a medical diagnosis, determine a treatment for a medical condition, or obtain other related advice.
- Dyscalculia: Symptoms & Treatment of the Math Learning Disability. (n.d.). Retrieved June 3, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/childhood-adhd/dyscalculia-facts
- What Is Dyscalculia | Understood. (n.d.). Retrieved June 3, 2022, from https://www.understood.org/en/articles/what-is-dyscalculia