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"What is dyscalculia?
Many students have difficulty learning mathematics for a variety of
reasons. Not all of these students have dyscalculia. However, there
are some basic areas of mathematical activity in everyday life that
may indicate a dyscalculic tendency if persistently difficult and
frustrating for a person. Such symptoms manifest as: mathematics
anxiety and dyscalculia.
In very simple terms, analogous to dyslexia - which is dysfunction in
the reception, comprehension, or production of linguistic information,
dyscalculia can be defined as the dysfunction in the reception,
comprehension, or production of quantitative and spatial information.
Dyscalculia is a collection of symptoms of learning disability
involving the most basic aspect of arithmetical skills. On the
surface, these relate to basic concepts such as: telling the time,
calculating prices and handling change, and measuring and estimating
things such as temperature and speed.
Dyscalculia is an individual's difficulty in conceptualizing numbers,
number relationships, outcomes of numerical operations and estimation
- what to expect as an outcome of an operation."
"Dyscalculia (or dyscalcula)
"Dyscalculia" is a lessor-known learning disability that affects
mathatical calculations. It is derived from the generic name
There are rigorous criteria used to determine if a student has a
learning disability as it is defined by special education criteria.
When a student's mathematics difficulties are severe enough to meet
certain criteria, special education services are indicated. However,
"dyscalculia" has no clearly defined criteria and cannot be assessed
reliably. A student with any degree of mathematics difficulty may be
considered to have "dyscalculia" by some educational specialists.
Because of the ambiguity of categorization, being identified as having
"dyscalculia" may or may not indicate the need for special education
services. The term appears to be seldom used within public schools
because of the lack of any clear, measurable criteria. Nevertheless,
many students have it.
Dyscalculia has several underlying causes. One of the most prominent
is a weakness in visual processing. To be successful in mathematics,
one needs to be able to visualize numbers and mathematics situations.
Students with dyscalculia have a very difficult time visualizing
numbers and often mentally mix up the numbers, resulting in what
appear to be "stupid mistakes."
Another problem is with sequencing. Students who have difficulty
sequencing or organizing detailed information often have difficulty
remembering specific facts and formulas for completing their
Many students with disabilities have histories of academic failure
that contribute to the development of learned helplessness in
mathematics. It is important that mathematics instructors recognize
the symptoms of dyscalculia and take the necessary measures to help
students that are affected. Some of the symptoms are:
Students might have spatial problems and difficulty aligning numbers
into proper columns.
Have trouble with sequence, including left/right orientation. They
will read numbers out of sequence and sometimes do operations
backwards. They also become confused on the sequences of past or
Students typically have problems with mathematics concepts in word
problems, confuse similar numbers (e.g., 7 and 9; 3 and 8), and have
difficulty using a calculator.
It is common for students with dyscalculia to have normal or
accelerated language acquisition: verbal, reading, writing, and good
visual memory for the printed word. They are typically good in the
areas of science (until a level requiring higher mathematics skills is
reached), geometry (figures with logic not formulas), and creative
Students have difficulty with the abstract concepts of time and
direction (e.g. inability to recall schedules, and unable to keep
track of time). They may be chronically late.
Mistaken recollection of names. Poor name/face retrieval. Substitute
names beginning with same letter.
Students have inconsistent results in addition, subtraction,
multiplication and division. Students have poor mental mathematics
ability. They are poor with money and credit and cannot do financial
planning or budgeting (e.g. balancing a checkbook). Short term, not
long term financial thinking. May have fear of money and cash
transactions. May be unable to mentally figure change due back, the
amounts to pay for tips, taxes, etc
When writing, reading and recalling numbers, these common mistakes are
made: number additions, substitutions, transpositions, omissions, and
Inability to grasp and remember mathematics concepts, rules formulas,
sequence (order of operations), and basic addition, subtraction,
multiplication and division facts. Poor long-term memory (retention &
retrieval) of concept mastery. Students understand material as they
are being shown it, but when they must retrieve the information they
become confused and are unable to do so. They may be able to perform
mathematics operations one day, but draw a blank the next. May be able
to do book work but can fails all tests and quizzes.
May be unable to comprehend or "picture" mechanical processes. Lack
"big picture/ whole picture" thinking. Poor ability to "visualize or
picture" the location of the numbers on the face of a clock, the
geographical locations of states, countries, oceans, streets, etc.
Poor memory for the "layout" of things. Gets lost or disoriented
easily. May have a poor sense of direction, loose things often, and
seem absent minded. May have difficulty grasping concepts of formal
music education. Difficulty sight-reading music, learning fingering to
play an instrument, etc.
May have poor athletic coordination, difficulty keeping up with
rapidly changing physical directions like in aerobic, dance, and
exercise classes. Difficulty remembering dance step sequences rules
for playing sports.
Difficulty keeping score during games, or difficulty remembering how
to keep score in games, like bowling, etc. Often looses track of whose
turn it is during games, like cards and board games. Limited strategic
planning ability for games, like chess."
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