...where fun is education and education is fun...

Learning Disabilities: Dyscalculia


  • What is a learning disability?
  • It is a specific problem in the brain that affects the way a person processes and responds to information.
  • ADHD
  • Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder - a disorder which affects the brains ability to concentrate.
  • A learning disability that makes it difficult to learn to read, write and spell in the conventional way.
  • A learning disability that involves problems with movement.
  • A learning disability involving mathematics.

Other resources

  • Food For Thought

What is Dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia is a life-long learning disability involving the inability to deal with mathematical concepts. There is no single form of this disability and the effects it can have vary widely from person to person. It's important to note that just because a student has trouble learning math, doesn't mean they have a learning disability.

The effects of dyscalculia will be different and depend on which area of mathematical ability is affected. The two major areas of weakness responsible for learning disabilities in maths are visual-spatial problems (when the brain has trouble processing what the eyes see) and language processing difficulties (when the brain has trouble processing what the ears hear).

The person with visual-spatial problems will face different challenges than a person who has the language processing difficulty. However, with alternate learning methods, students with dyscalculia can learn to achieve.

Common Signs of Dyscalculia

There are some common warning signs that can indicate the presence of dyscalculia.

  • A student may have good reading and writing skills, but are slow to develop basic maths skills.
  • They often have a good memory for printed words, but experience difficulty reading and recalling numbers.
  • They have trouble with the concept of time.
  • They often have a poor sense of direction
  • Poor long term memory of maths concepts - they can do something one day, but not the next.
  • Poor mental math ability.
  • Have difficulty playing strategy games like chess.
  • Have difficulty keeping score with board games.

What are the effects of Dyscalculia?

Young children with dyscalculia experience trouble learning to count, recognizing printed numbers and have a poor memory for numbers. They have trouble with tasks like sorting, recognizing patterns, comparing and contrasting concepts such as bigger/smaller, and matching numbers with amounts.

School age children have difficulties solving basic computations (addition, subtraction etc) and struggle to retains maths facts such as times tables. They also find applying maths knowledge to solve problems difficult to do.

Children with the visual-spatial weakness may understand the math, but have a lot of trouble organising it on paper. Reading from the board or a textbook can also be a challenge for these students.

Strategies for managing Dyscalculia

  • Have the student try to visualize the maths problem - in the early years, it's easy to use concrete materials to demonstrate what a problem looks like.
  • The student should take extra notice of any visual information that may come with a problem - charts, graphs, pictures
  • Reading the problem out loud allows the student to use their auditory skills, which may be a strength for some.
  • Show the student examples and apply real life examples if appropriate
  • Use graph paper for maths problems to keep numbers in line
  • Do not present too many problems on the one page, otherwise you risk overwhelming the student with too much visual information
  • Spend extra time and effort to memorise math facts - use music or rhythm to help.

Learn more about Dyscalculia:

  • National Centre for Learning Disabilities - US
  • LDOnline.com
  • Dyscalculia description, information and strategies

Copyright 2014 Education by Design