Dyscalculia is a specific learning disorder that affects a person’s ability to understand and perform mathematical concepts and calculations. It is estimated to affect approximately 5-7% of the population, and it is often referred to as “mathematics dyslexia” or “number blindness.”

The exact causes of dyscalculia are not yet fully understood. However, researchers have found that it is often associated with neurological differences in the brain, particularly in areas related to processing numerical information. Dyscalculia may also be related to genetic factors, as it often runs in families.

Symptoms of dyscalculia can vary from person to person, but common signs include difficulty understanding and using basic math concepts, such as counting, sequencing, and estimating. People with dyscalculia may also struggle with mental arithmetic, reading graphs and charts, and using mathematical symbols and formulas. Other symptoms can include difficulty with spatial reasoning, time management, and organization.

Despite these challenges, individuals with dyscalculia can lead successful and fulfilling lives. With appropriate support and accommodations, they can learn strategies to manage their difficulties with math and find ways to excel in other areas. For example, many people with dyscalculia have strengths in creative and artistic fields, as well as in verbal and written communication.

There are many resources available to help individuals with dyscalculia. Educators and parents can work together to develop specialized learning plans and provide accommodations, such as extra time on tests, the use of manipulatives, and assistive technology. Additionally, there are numerous online resources, support groups, and advocacy organizations that can provide guidance and support to individuals with dyscalculia and their families.

One such organization is the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with learning disabilities. The NCLD provides resources and information on a wide range of topics related to learning disabilities, including dyscalculia. Their website includes articles, webinars, and online tools that can help individuals with dyscalculia better understand their condition and find ways to manage their challenges.

In conclusion, dyscalculia is a specific learning disorder that can make it challenging to understand and perform processes that require numbers.

Are There Different Types of Dyscalculia?

Dyslexia, like learning difficulties, is often used as a collective term.

It’s worth noting that some researchers and professionals may use different terminology or categorizations for dyscalculia. Additionally, many individuals with dyscalculia may experience a combination of these different types, and treatment and accommodations should be tailored to the individual’s specific needs. The table below gives more clarity, however it would take a qualified professional to make a diagnosis.

ypes of DyscalculiaDescription and Symptoms
Verbal DyscalculiaIndividuals struggle with understanding and applying mathematical language and concepts. They may have difficulty memorizing and recalling mathematical facts and have trouble solving word problems.
Visuo-spatial DyscalculiaIndividuals struggle with understanding and working with visual-spatial concepts, such as recognizing patterns and spatial relationships. They may have difficulty with graphing, geometry, and measuring.
Practognostic DyscalculiaIndividuals struggle with the physical manipulation of numbers, such as writing them or manipulating them in their head. They may have difficulty with basic operations, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
Semantic Memory DyscalculiaIndividuals struggle with understanding and applying mathematical concepts, such as place value and number magnitude. They may have difficulty understanding mathematical relationships and concepts.
Working Memory DyscalculiaIndividuals struggle with retaining and recalling information, such as mental math or memorizing multiplication tables. They may have difficulty with tasks that require holding numbers in their working memory.

Note: There may be overlap between these types of dyscalculia and individuals may experience a combination of symptoms from different types. Additionally, this table is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all possible types of dyscalculia. It is not uncommon for a child to have more than one learning disorder with ranging severity.

Is It Possible to Diagnose Dyscalculia at Home?

It is not possible to diagnose dyscalculia at home. A formal diagnosis of dyscalculia requires the care of an educational professional. If you suspect that your child may have dyscalculia, you will need to have them professionally tested for dyscalculia or specific learning disorder. There are specific tests that can be used to diagnose dyscalculia, including matching, sequencing, computation, fluency and application, and quantifying and reasoning tests. It is important to seek professional help if you suspect your child has dyscalculia, as early detection and intervention can greatly improve their ability to succeed academically. The first thing you should do is contact the school.

There are some online tests that are well meaning and have some use to help you arrange your thoughts, like this one by ADDitute, but they are in no way a replacement for a trained educationalist.

What if I Disagree With the School or It Is Not Moving Fast Enough?

A common opinion of parents is that schools do not move fast enough, or even do not seem to care. It is simply the case that in many countries the service is over run. The best thing to do for the outset is have a constructive and positive relationship with the school. Rather than try and dictate what they should do try and work with them.

In the event that the school do not seem to moving quickly enough I would suggest, if possible, paying for a private assessment. Even if it is private assessment, if a learning difficulty is diagnosed, the school must then act. The cost of these can be extortionate, however can save years of time. Make sure they are a qualified professional who is licensed to diagnose dyslexia, for example, but limited to, a neuropsychologist or educational psychologist. It is rarely teachers or SENCOs unless they have had additional training.

What Are the Best Ways to Support a Child With Dyscalculia?

There are many ways to support a child with dyscalculia, and the best approach will depend on the individual child’s needs and strengths. Dyscalculia, as with all learning difficulties, is a spectrum so not all require the same level of support. Here are some general strategies that can be effective if they are raised in discussion:

  • Provide a structured and consistent learning environment that includes frequent breaks and opportunities for physical activity. When helping them at home, small regular activities, like a timetable sheet as breakfast is set every morning is very beneficial.
  • Focus on the child’s strengths and interests to help them develop a positive attitude towards math. Often there can be a defeatist mindset of. ‘but I can’t do maths’. Make sure that you do not empower this with, don’t worry, neither could I. Instead focus on how how other parts are challenging as your child will need confidence to commit to an answer.
  • Work with teachers and educational professionals to develop an individualized education plan (IEP) that outlines the child’s specific learning needs and identifies appropriate accommodations and modifications.
  • Advocacy. To provide accommodations such as extra time for tests, the use of a calculator or manipulatives, and alternative methods for demonstrating knowledge the school will need to engage someone to formally diagnose the issue. This can take far longer than you would presume.
  • Assistive technology. Assistive technology can be a valuable tool for children with dyslexia. This can include text-to-speech software, speech-to-text software, and other tools that can help with mathematics. With the advent of AI in education there are some excellent pieces of software to offer specific support to your child.
  • Provide emotional support and encouragement to help boost the child’s confidence and motivation to learn.

Final Thoughts on Dyscalculia

Learning difficulties are on a spectrum, so there is no simple tick list to help. Any concerns at all, the first thing to do is make contact with the school and follow their advice. It could be that there are other learning difficulties that your child may have and we have a summary of them here.