Updated: Oct 12, 2022
Dyscalculia is a problem with learning math and mathematical functions. Math is difficult for people with dyscalculia on many levels. They often have trouble with basic ideas like big and small. It can be hard for them to do simple and more complex math problems.
Estimates say that between 3 and 6% of the population has trouble with math. In 2015, it was found that 11% of kids who have trouble with math also have ADHD. People with Turner syndrome and spina bifida have also been linked to dyscalculia.
Some types of brain injuries can cause math problems. When this happens, the term "acalculia" is used instead of "dyscalculia," which is caused by something inborn, genetic, or learned. Biologically, dyscalculia is linked to problems in the area around the intraparietal sulcus and in the frontal lobe as well. Dyscalculia is not caused by a general lack of intelligence or problems with telling time, measuring, or thinking about space.
What are the symptoms of dyscalculia?
Dyscalculia is not the same as math anxiety, but people with dyscalculia can have strong reactions to activities that involve math. For example, when playing board games, they may get upset or frustrated.
Keep in mind that everyone sometimes has trouble with math. People with dyscalculia will have a harder time with math than their peers, and their problems does not go away over time.
Use the following checklists to keep an eye out for possible signs of dyscalculia:
Can't learn to count well
Struggles to link a number to an object, like knowing that "3" refers to groups of things like 3 cakes, 3 cars, or 3 friends.
Has trouble recognizing patterns, such as small to big or tall to short.
Has trouble learning and remembering basic number facts, such as 6 + 4 = 10, which are called "number bonds."
Still counts with their fingers instead of using more advanced methods (like mental math)
Some people may get +, -, and x mixed up because they don't understand what they mean.
Has trouble figuring out that 3+5=5+3 or may not be able to solve 3+2626 without a calculator.
Has trouble understanding place value and puts numbers in the wrong column a lot.
May not know how to talk about math or come up with a plan to solve a math problem.
Has trouble with math terms like "greater than" and "less than."
Can't keep track of the score in sports or games
Has trouble figuring out how much everything costs and can run out of money
May try to stay away from things like math games that require them to know numbers.
Charts and graphs are hard for them to understand.
Has trouble finding different ways to solve the same math problem, like adding the length and width of a rectangle and doubling the answer to find the perimeter (rather than adding all the sides).
Having trouble learning and understanding reasoning methods and multi-step math procedures
Has trouble measuring things like ingredients in a simple recipe or liquids in a bottle.
Doesn't feel comfortable doing things that require knowing speed, distance, and directions, so they may get lost easily.
Has trouble putting math skills to use with money, like figuring out the exact change
Typical signs and symptoms are:
Having trouble counting backward
Struggle to remember "basic" facts
Slow to figure things out
Bad with numbers and guessing
Place value is hard to understand.
Most of the time, the default operation is addition.
High levels of worry about math
Does dyscalculia affect intelligence?
Dyscalculia is a learning disability that makes it hard for people of average intelligence to learn math and numbers, even though they are taught the same way as other people the same age. It can make it hard to count, measure, remember numbers in order, see patterns, tell time, find your way, or remember math facts and procedures. Dyscalculia is a condition that lasts a person's whole life. It can hurt academic progress and self-esteem, but it can be treated, especially if it starts when the person is young. Children can be taught different ways in which they can learn math.
How is dyscalculia diagnosed?
For a person to be diagnosed with dyscalculia, their math performance on a standard test must be at least one standard deviation below the mean for their age or grade. The diagnosis should also be clear from the patient's history, the results of a clinical exam, and any other psychosocial tests.
Dyscalculia should only be diagnosed if the person in question has below-average math skills when relevant information from the person's history, test results, clinical exam, and further psychosocial assessment is taken into account. The treatment should be focused on the specific math problem areas. Treatment should start as early as elementary school and be done by trained specialists in a one-on-one setting. Other symptoms and disorders should also be taken care of. People with dyscalculia are likely to also have dyslexia (reading difficulty). The same is true for people with ADD/ADHD and other mental disorders, both internal (like anxiety and depression) and external (like tics and OCD) (e.g., disorders characterized by aggression and rule-breaking).
What causes dyscalculia in children?
Here are two possible reasons for having trouble with math:
Because of genes and inheritance, math problems tend to run in families. Research shows that math problems may also have something to do with your genes.
Brain development: Brain imaging studies have shown that people with dyscalculia and those who don't have it are different in some ways.
How does dyscalculia affect a child?
Dyscalculia affects more than a child's ability to do math class and homework. Math skills and ideas are used in the kitchen, on the playground, at work, and everywhere else. It's normal to worry about what dyscalculia will do in the long run. But once a person's weaknesses are known, they can be worked around by focusing on their strengths. Here are some everyday tasks and skills that a child might find hard:
Social skills: If a child fails math class over and over again, they might think that failure is inevitable in other areas as well. Low self-esteem can make it hard for a child to make new friends or join activities after school. The child might also avoid games and sports where math and keeping score are important.
Sense of direction: It might be hard for your child to tell left from right. He might have trouble reading maps or following directions to get to places. Some kids with dyscalculia have trouble picturing things. The child might not be able to picture how a building or other three-dimensional object would look from a different angle. This will make it hard for them to know where to go. At a later age, this will make it hard to drive.
Dyscalculia can make it hard for the brain and eyes to coordinate and work well together. So a child might have trouble figuring out how far apart things are. The child might look more clumsy than other kids his or her age.
Dyscalculia can make it hard to stick to a budget, balance a cheque book, or guess how much something will cost. It can also make it hard to figure out how much to tip and how much change you have.
Dyscalculia can make it hard for a child to measure anything, including units of time. The child may have trouble guessing how long a minute is or keeping track of how much time has passed. It can be hard to keep to a schedule because of this.
Other skills: A child may have trouble figuring out how much of an ingredient to use in a recipe or how fast or far away another car is moving.
How is dyscalculia treated in children?
Here are some practical things parents can do to help a child who has trouble with math.
Dominoes are a fun game: Playing games with dominoes can help kids get a better grasp on simple math ideas. Ronit Bird, an expert, says that instead of counting each dot on dominoes and dice, kids should learn to recognize the number patterns. Start by letting your child play with dominoes and dice on their own, so they get used to them. Then, find a game that your child likes to play that uses these things.
Try not to use worksheets: Instead of giving worksheets, parents should play games with their kids to help them remember math facts. Kids almost always like games more than adults do. Instead of boring facts to memorize, they show math as fun puzzles to solve. If you use worksheets, you may need to highlight important numbers in the directions and in the different problems. Let your child use different colored pencils to fill out worksheets. This may help them organize their work better.
Parent Mediated Therapy: In parent-mediated therapy, professionals teach parents how to do therapy so that they can help their own child. With this method, children with autism get consistent training and reinforcement all day long. Parents can also do some therapies with children who might have symptoms of autism but are too young to be diagnosed.
Use Manipulatives: A child will understand the abstract ideas of math better if they can see and touch a real object. Adding and taking away can be taught with Legos and simple blocks. Your child will be able to picture different groups of numbers better if he or she covers a certain number of objects in his or her hands.
Learn the math language: Parents should tell their kids to talk out loud as they try to solve a math problem or learn a new math concept. Children who have trouble with math might be good at language, which could help them learn math faster. Children should learn different words that mean the same thing as different math terms. For example, they could use words like "plus," "increase," and "more than" when talking about addition problems. Tell your child what simple words mean, and let them talk about it and say what it means in their own words.
Create Visual Models: This is similar to using manipulatives, but making visual models can go beyond just using simple objects that can be held. Addition and subtraction can be taught with simple things like different-colored socks or pairs of shoes.
Use Arrangements: Accommodations can be as simple as circling words in math sentences that are important or as complicated as giving your child more paper to work out math problems. You should also talk to your child's teacher about how the school can help your child. Some of them include getting more time on tests and, if one is available, being able to use a math resource room. A child with dyscalculia might also be able to use a calculator for everyday math problems and tests.
Teach Toward Understanding: Math can be learned in pieces, but it's always a good idea to keep in mind what you want to learn. Memorizing facts, like multiplication tables, is a good idea, but just memorizing facts won't always help you understand a math concept or process. Start by telling your child to use logic instead of memorization to figure out how to solve a problem. Also, it's a good idea to learn a few basic strategies that can be used in many different situations.
Even though not all of these strategies work for every child, finding even a few that do will likely help a child improve their math skills in a big way. It's important for parents to recognize and praise their child's progress as they learn a new skill, especially when if it was hard at first.
At Daffodil Health, we help kids by giving them speech therapy, occupational therapy, behavior therapy, and special education. Through our Home therapy program, we also show parents how to help their child from the comfort of their own home.
For more info: www.daffodilhealth.com