Are you baffled by how much your otherwise bright kid struggles with simple math? Perhaps he has a specific learning difference called dyscalculia. Read on to learn some basic dyscalculia facts. And, find out more about whether you need to find out more.
1. Dyscalculia Facts: What Is It?
Dyscalculia is a disorder that makes it difficult to process and understand fundamental math. As with dyslexia, these difficulties are not related to underlying intelligence. Nor do they relate to levels of education.
Experts estimate that 3-10% of the population has this disorder. They also estimate that about 40% of dyslexics also have dyscalculia.
2. Dyscalculia Facts: Signs, Symptoms and Things To Look For
- Difficulty learning and remembering math facts like basic addition and multiplication tables. Even after repeated practice and exposure.
- Not able to recognize the same number when it’s written as a word, and when it’s written as a numeric symbol. So, not recognizing that “3” and “three” are the same thing.
- Older children who continue to use their fingers to figure out basic math facts.
- Difficulty understanding math concepts like place value, regrouping, carrying and borrowing.
- Hard time distinguishing between right and left, or associating symbols with directions
- Difficulty with time concepts such the days of the week and their order, order of months in a year, and telling time on an analog clock.
- Struggles with money concepts such as making or counting change.
- Unable to reliably recall numbers like zip codes and phone numbers.
3. Diagnosing Dyscalculia
No validated specialized test for dyscalculia exists. Rather, it can be identified as part of a broader educational/learning evaluation.
And, this math disorder often occurs with other learning differences or attention issues (such as dyslexia or ADHD). It could be that while your child’s persistent math struggles stand out, other issues also need to be addressed. They just haven’t attracted attention yet. So the best approach would be to conduct a comprehensive evaluation. One conducted by someone experienced in diagnosing a full range of learning issues, such as an educational psychologist.
4. Dyscalculia Facts: Treatments/Interventions
Trying to find effective treatments and interventions for dyscalculia can be frustrating. There really isn’t a concrete one-size-fits-all answer or approach.
Basically, you need to seek out individualized learning strategies and targeted accommodations based on your child’s learning profile.
And, more broadly, you should look at implementing strategies to help your child gain some level of comfort and confidence with using numbers. This can be done through board games or role playing. Or, by actively discussing math concepts as they occur in everyday life. For instance, having practical discussions involving numbers in the grocery store or while cooking. Or, showing how we use numbers to comparison shop online.
You can also create practical discussions and projects from your child’s allowance, if he has one. Don’t underestimate the power of saving money for a coveted goal. For example, my son desperately wanted a Nintendo Switch. For a variety of reasons, I was not inclined to buy one for him. But, I told him that he could save up his own money and buy one on his own.
It took him nine months to do it. And during that period, we had many voluntary discussions about numbers and math that keyed off of his quest for a Switch. Figuring out how much he needed to save. Discovering how long it would take just using his regular allowance. Calculating how many extra things he could do to earn money faster. Looking at the different variables of time, money and potential earnings for different jobs. Investigating the costs of game cartridges and accessories, and factoring it into his budget. Lots of different kinds of math from several different angles. And it was all fun!
Additional Tip: Make peace with allowing the use of a calculator whenever possible.
5. Dyscalculia: Long Term Prospects
You cannot cure dyscalculia. But you can largely tackle it through simple accommodations – like calculators.
That said, kids who face persistent struggles with basic math concepts and number sense are at risk for suffering from low self-esteem issues.
- This article, How to Treat the Symptoms of Dyscalculia, has great practical advice on accommodations and interventions. Specifically, check out the section on interventions that you can implement at home.
- For great suggestions and strategies on supporting self-esteem in kids with dyscalculia, check out: How to Help Kids With Dyscalculia.