What is a Math Learning Disability?


What is dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia is a math learning disability which alot of people do not know about. In general, people with this math learning disability have difficulty with numbers and math symbols.

dyscalculia math
Although the word itself is translated as counting badly, it affects much more than that in people with it, such as a persons ability to understand, remember or work out number facts such as multiplication tables.

Do you have a dyscalculic story to tell? Share it with us here! We would love to hear it.

So, what is it exactly? Well, its kind of related to dyslexia only, dyscalculia is to numbers as dyslexia is to words. Its a rare learning disability which affects about 5% of the population and can happen in people across the whole IQ range.

In other words you could be very clever or as thick as two planks of wood and still have dyscalculia.

Various studies and research have shown that the number of dyscalculics range between 3 and 6%. But unfortunatley, no international study has been done in the world to show how wide the disability is.

It is apparent that the ratio of men to women dyscalculics is 50% male to 50% female.

There seems to be many versions of this math learning disability, dyscalculia. Since researchers are not working together on this math learning disability, 50 types of this disability have been given a name.

There are also lots of variations to the word dyscalculia - Dyscalculi, discalculi, discalculia and so on. This is partly due to the fact that there is a general lack of knowledge about the disability. No one particular government has officially named the disability, "dyscalculia'.


Dyscalculia is not highly recognized in schools within special educational needs departments. Or rather it is the learning disorders which is not well known about. This means that it is difficult for special education professionals to recognize and diagnose someone with it.

However, saying that it is not impossible to detect and can be recognized in young people. Steps can be taken to help or ease problems faced by young people.


  • Confusion over simple mathematical symbols such as +, ÷, × and −.
  • Problems with everyday math tasks, such as checking money change and telling the time.

    dyscalculia math symbols

  • Hard to budget even at basic levels such as estimating the cost of the things in a shopping basket.
  • Difficulties with mental arithmetic such as, multiplication tables, addition, subtraction etc.

  • Dyscalculics usually do well in subjects such as science and geometry, which require more common sense, until higher level calculations are required using formulas.
  • Dyscalculia sufferers have parents who usually do well in Mathematics. Although this is not yet genetically proven.
  • Usually early or late to events/appointments due to being unable to tell the time properly.
  • Difficulties with differentiating between left and right.
  • They probably do exceptionally well in writing related fields/careers. Hence many authors and journalists have this disorder.
  • Difficulty in reading maps.
  • Finds it difficult to estimate distance measurements such as if something is 5 or 10 meters away.
  • Unable to understand and remember mathematical concepts, rules, formulae and sequences.

    dyscalculia math picture hate

  • Hard to read a sequence of numbers or imposing them back to front, such as 23 into 32.
  • Inability to keep up with counting scores in a game.
  • Difficulty with playing poker and related games with flexible rule counting.
  • Difficulty with physical activities that need to keep track in counting such as dancing or sport. They usually have difficulty with using a calculator due to having to input things in the right order.

  • Maybe over sensitive to things such as noise, smell, light and the inability to tune out of unnecessary information.
  • Mistaking and remembering peoples names and matching a face to a name.

    "You can do it if you really want to!"

    In school, on of the most typical remark by teachers is 'You can do it if you really want to!'. Unfortunatley, this remark is usually followed by "and if you try hard enough".

    This is usually the teachers escape or solution to helping someone stuck on a math problem, meant in the best possible way. Unfortunately, no, not for students with a math learning disability, such as dyscalculia.

    Math learning diability, dyscalculic students really want to be able to understand numbers. What are they? What are they for? What do we need them for? They would rather understand in what context we use them in.

    Worst of all is to then put letters in maths such as algebra! That really throws dyscalculics off the radar.

    This is like rubbing salt into the wound, by introducing letters with math. Dyscalculics need learning methods that suit their style of learning.

    Students with Dyscalculia

    For students who have this math learning disability, there are many ways to handle the issue.

    • Giving extra time to solve problems.
    • Making sure they understand the problem to begin with.
    • Find out if the learning style is visual, auditory or kinesthetic
    • Encourage students to visualize and see the problem in different ways.

      dyscalculia math

    • Some students may find different methods to work out problems. If it is effective, encourage it.

    • Make them read the problem out loud and carefully. Make the read it out more than once.
    • Provide examples and situations in real life relating to the problem

    • Provide clear to understand worksheets. Preferably uncluttered
    • Rhythm or music may help the process.

    • Dyscalculia students who are also dyslexic may have very poor memory to understand problems. In this case, be sure to focus on strengthening basic numerical bonds and then use calculation strategies.

    • Most importantly, Have patience and do not scold or pity students.

    Soon to be uploaded...an interview with a dyscalculic, Angela, who just happens to be my next door neighbor! So do come back for more. Especially to hear what Angela has to say.

    Do you have your own story to tell? Share it with us.

    For more information on why maths is so hard for some children, check this book out:

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