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What is Dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia is a learning disability that impairs an individual’s ability to understand everyday maths concepts, make sense of numbers, and memorize formulas. It includes all types of maths problems ranging from an inability to understand the meaning of numbers, to an inability to apply mathematical principles to solve problems.

Symptoms of Dyscalculia

Symptoms of dyscalculia show up in the classroom and beyond. They affect how your child will play with friends. Struggles with maths are often easily dismissed especially if your child seems to do well in other subjects but can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety and missed opportunities if they are not dealt with as early as possible.
Typical symptoms include:
  • Difficulty counting backwards.
  • Difficulty remembering 'basic' facts.
  • Slow to perform calculations.
  • Weak mental arithmetic skills.
  • A poor sense of numbers and estimation.
  • Difficulty in understanding place value.
  • Addition is often the default operation.
  • High levels of mathematics anxiety.
  • Forget mathematical procedures, especially as they become more complex, for example long division. Addition is often the default operation. The other operations are usually very poorly executed or avoided altogether.

What is the root cause?

The brain is functioning differently in dyscalculia individuals. There are many possible causes, including both genetic and environmental. The cause for one individual may not be the same as for another.

Genetic causes include known genetic disorders such as Turner's syndrome,  Velocardiofacial syndrome or Williams syndrome. In addition studies suggest that there are genes present in the general population which increase the risk of dyscalculia.

Known environmental causes include alcohol consumption during pregnancy, and pre-term birth. Both of these can result in under-development of the brain.
Dyscalculia often co-occurs with other learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and specific language impairment. This is probably because both environmental and genetic factors which affect brain development are likely to act on several areas of the brain at once

Can dyscalculia be cured?

There are no medications for dyscalculia. But medication can be a treatment for other issues, like ADHD or ADD and anxiety that often co-occur with learning and attention issues. Learn about different strategies, supports and therapies that can help children with dyscalculia.

How does dyscalculia affect a person life?

Dyscalculia is a specific learning disability, a mathematical learning disability. Dyscalculia has severe difficulty in making arithmetical calculations. Children with dyscalculia fall behind early in primary school, and may develop anxiety with a strong dislike of Mathematics. Dyscalculia may affect individuals over their life span.

Symptoms of Dyscalculia during Pre-school

  • Has difficulty learning to count and counting backwards.
  • Struggles to connect a number to an object, such as “3” applies to groups of things like 3 apples, 3 boys, or 3 cups
  • Has difficulty to recognize patterns, like smallest to largest and tallest to shortest.

Symptoms of Dyscalculia during Primary School

You may be seeing signs of Dyscalculia in your Primary level and not just during Mathematics homework. Children can also struggle with some games and everyday activities like telling time. These are signs you might see in Primary school:-

1). Avoiding Popular Games

Children with Dyscalculia often avoid games that involve Maths skills or strategy. Your child might not want to play War game, or other popular children’s games. Rather than joining friends who are playing cards or a board game, your child might prefer playing alone.

2. Forgetting Basic Math Facts

What is 2 + 3? Your child may still be mastering addition while most of the classmates have moved on to multiplication. That is because children with dyscalculia tend to have trouble learning and remembering Maths facts.

3. Using Fingers to Count

Children with dyscalculia often have trouble with counting and mental Maths. So when you ask how many carrot sticks are still on the plate, your child might try to show you rather than tell you. Sometimes your child might still use fingers to solve a problem when classmates have moved on to other techniques.

4. Having Trouble Solving Word Problems

Children with Dyscalculia often struggle to connect “clue words” with Maths operations. Your child may have trouble telling you how many sandwiches to make if each family member wants two.
Note: Explore the signs of Dyscalculia at different ages. And find out what steps to take if you think your child has Dyscalculia.

How to Help Kids With Dyscalculia?

There are a number of ways you can support a child with Dyscalculia – both at home and in school.

Provide Academic Supports

Children with Dyscalculia need extra support to help them stay on track in Maths class, handle homework and deal with Tests. Trying different types of support can help you and your child find the right tools for his needs.

Tutors: A maths tutor, especially one who has experience working with students who learn differently, can help your child learn to approach maths problems in a more effective way. Tutoring will also allow your child to practice his maths skills in a slower, less stressful setting.

1). Supportive tools and tech can help your child navigate difficult problems:-
  • A calculator he knows how to use.

  • Pencils (so can erase).

  • Graph paper to help him keep columns and numbers straight.

  • Pre-set phone reminders and alarms to help him keep track of time.

  • Maths Apps and games that allow him to practice essential skills in a fun way.

2). Work with your child’s teacher to ensure he’s able to access appropriate supports including:-
  • Access to a calculator during class and tests

  • Extra time on tests

  • A quiet space to work

  • The option to record lectures

  • Access to the teacher’s notes

  • Time in the math resource room (if his school offers one).

  • In-school tutoring or homework assistance.

Support self-esteem

Dyscalculia often has hidden learning disabilities. If your child has dyscalculia he may feel embarrassed when asked to do things, for example, like reciting multiplication tables that are difficult for him, especially during class when other students are present.

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Video: Orton-Gillingham Approach
This approach is our face-to-face, hands-on technique. The approach allow teachers to incorporate into their daily lesson the five components essential to an effective reading program: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary development, fluency, and comprehension strategies.

Orton-Gillingham Approach
Video: Orton-Gillingham Approach

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