Dyscalculia is a learning disability that affects mathematical calculations. The severity of the condition varies from person to person.

Major areas of weakness that signal a diagnosis of dyscalculia include visual-spatial difficulties and language processing difficulties. Other common symptoms include trouble with learning mathematical facts, trouble with number recognition, and mathematical problem-solving difficulties.

Children who do not have proper math vocabulary and visual-spatial associations may find it more difficult to move on to advanced math in the future. Treatment for dyscalculia often involves using alternative learning methods and different ways to approach mathematical problems.

What is dyscalculia?

People with dyscalculia have difficulties with numbers. The latest studies estimate over 5% of the population has dyscalculia.Most have never been diagnosed.

Dyscalculia is found in people from all backgrounds, cultures and levels of intellectual ability.

Interestingly, about 40% of dyslexics also have dyscalculia.

How are people with dyscalculia different? Dyscalculia is something you are born with. Someone with dyscalculia has specific difficulty with numbers, despite good performance in other areas.

They may have great difficulties with:

  • Arithmetic, for example 4+8 or 22x4
  • Prices in shops (including tendering the correct money and receiving change).
  • A general intuitive sense of numbers and what they represent, eg: which is bigger, 2240 or 2660? Does 5 x 206 = approximately 1000 or approximately 10,000?
  • Instant number judgements – eg: ‘seeing’ there are 4 cups on the table (a dyscalculic may need to count them).
  • Phone numbers, dates and times.

Why are people scared of maths?

Dyscalculia has only recently been recognised, in the same way dyslexia was 30 years ago. Many people have been labelled (or label themselves) stupid because they can’t do ‘simple sums’. When a group of 9 year olds were asked why they disliked maths lessons they said ‘you feel stupid’ and ‘I wish that I was like a clever person’. The emotional effects are wide-reaching and often affect a child’s entire attitude to learning.