What is Dyscalculia?June 13, 2022
You may have heard of dyslexia (difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols) and dyspraxia (a condition affecting physical coordination), but have you heard of dyscalculia? If it’s not something you’re up to speed with, here’s a brief overview of everything you need to know…
Dyscalculia is a learning difficulty that makes mathematics very challenging. It makes it hard for children to make sense of number concepts. Children with dyscalculia will find mental arithmetic and other mathematical tasks are too difficult to complete successfully. If dyscalculia isn’t diagnosed and accounted for, it can make a child feel very anxious. In fact, it can cause feelings of frustration, embarrassment, and low self-esteem.
Dyscalculia affects children of all ages. However, just because a child is struggling with arithmetic doesn’t mean that they’re affected by dyscalculia. Instead, they might just be performing at the expected ability level for their age and experiencing typical challenges with mathematics. Or, they might simply have a knowledge gap in their understanding.
Typical Signs of Dyscalculia
The British Dyslexia Association has a lot of helpful information for dyscalculia, including signs to look for:
- Anxiety and avoidance:
- High levels of mathematics anxiety and avoidance of maths tasks that are perceived as difficult or likely to result in the wrong answer
- Weak mental arithmetic skills
- Difficulty counting backward
- Preference for addition, avoiding all other operations, or executing them poorly when attempted
- Slower to perform calculations
- Difficulty understanding the place value or role of ‘zero’ in the number system
- No sense of whether or not an answer is right or nearly right
- A poor sense of the value of numbers and estimation
- Difficulty remembering basic facts despite lots of hours of practice and rote learning
- Poor memory of mathematical procedures, especially if complex – long division is often very challenging
- Unable to compensate for a lack of recall other than to use counting
It’s worth noting that dyscalculia is often diagnosed in children who have already been diagnosed with ADHD.
Getting a Dyscalculia Diagnosis
It’s difficult to diagnose dyscalculia, and there isn’t a straightforward test for a child to take. Some organizations believe that dyscalculia is as common as dyslexia, which affects approximately 5 – 10% of the population. To secure an accurate diagnosis of dyscalculia, children should be assessed in a person-to-person clinical interview, rather than an online test or in an informal setting.
Once a child has received a dyscalculia diagnosis, there is help available! There are also things that can be done to help children at home. For instance, a child could be tasked with sorting household objects, or small items such as buttons. This can be a useful learning aid to learn about number values, division, subtraction, and other arithmetic tasks.
Finally, it’s a good idea to play math-related games to help children have fun and feel more at ease with arithmetic. Doing math outside of your homeschool setting will help to alleviate some of the anxiety and frustration associated with the subject.
More About the Author:
Naomi Webb is an experienced freelance writer specializing in a wide range of topics, surrounding primary and secondary school education. She has written for a variety of online publications and is keen to share her knowledge and advice with teachers, parents, and homeschoolers.