Dyscalculia, often described as “Number Dyslexia“, might come in the way of many talented people who want to pursue their passion, even in areas like performing arts. Professions like music and dance may seem far away from needing any kind of quantitative aptitude but the fact that some have difficulties even counting rhythms, remembering sequences, and identifying symbols changes the game.
Dancing is an expression, but to excel at it and deliver performances professionally, one needs tremendous effort and consistent practice. Dyscalculia may hamper this and makes it challenging at times for affected individuals who are passionate and aim to be dancers.
This post tends to unfold the crucial aspects of dancing that are directly or indirectly linked to dyscalculia.
Dancing with dyscalculia – Challenges faced
Although dancing is a form of art and does not need academic learning and may seem like something that is not even remotely related to math, dancing with learning difficulties like dyscalculia can be stressful. On exploring problems faced by dancers with learning difficulties such as dyscalculia, it was found that challenges such as turning the wrong direction, getting distracted, losing count of steps, processing at a slower speed, losing balance, and eventually feeling frustrated were experienced often.
In affected individuals with dyscalculia, deficits in motor skills create obstacles for learning as well as performing dance smoothly. Due to deficits in hand-eye and brain-hand coordination, performing specific steps at a specific time relating to beats can be perplexing. Being a physical activity, dance requires the active engagement of motor skills and impairment of the same can make learners struggle.
Another major limitation, which is the working memory, adds to the hardships of learners. For any kind of dance performance, the dancer needs to remember the sequence of dance which is often taught by numbering the steps that are to be followed in sequential order, counting the beats, and mentally anticipating the next step. Just the word ‘step’ that dance is centered around signifies the importance of sequence. Difficulties in remembering these sequences, especially while performing in a group can become troublesome.
Difficulties in visual-spatial skills, phonological processing and retrieval, and pattern understanding also contribute to challenges faced in dancing with dyscalculia.
Tips and strategies for dyscalculics learning the art of dancing
Talked above are some studies and research that convey how it can be a daunting task for individuals with dyscalculia to grasp dancing and its nitty-gritty. However, with the help of certain tips and strategies, this challenging task becomes a cakewalk.
Here are some of them that you can incorporate while indulging in a practice like dancing:
1. Extra Hours at Practice
Since there are a number of challenges that affected dancers come across in their journey of dance, it goes unsaid that extra effort and practice will be required. Practicing more will build confidence even if it does not create solid memorization of steps. Also, spending extra hours at practice and taking special help from co-dancers or the instructor can also provide some help in improving performance.
2. Cues for Sequences
Creating your own cues to work your way through the dance is a good idea to solve problems related to learning the sequence using numbers. This can be done by familiarizing oneself with the parts of others and their own well-setting cues based on the steps of others. Certain catchy and memorable words or turning points in the songs being performed can also be included for the cues.
3. Increasing physical activities
Increasing physical activity will help increase mobility and further aid in motor skill deficits. It will also improve hand-eye, brain-hand, and brain-leg coordination which certain dancers may struggle with. Moving the body in a conscious manner will create more self-awareness and flexion.
Dance seems to be a bit challenging for learners with dyscalculia which presents many challenges in their journey. However, from a hopeful point of view, there are many wonderful things that dyscalculics have been able to be successful at and have shown improvement in with relevant and effective interventions, tools, and strategies.
Individuals with learning difficulties face difficulties in almost all aspects of their lives such as buying things from a grocery store navigating a map and learning a dance sequence. Not only the inability to count and remember sequences but also deficits in motor skills, body coordination with the brain, working memory deficits, difficulties in visual and spatial abilities along with impairments in phonological processing and pattern understanding create trouble for affected learners. However, help from co-dancers and instructors can make way for overcoming these struggles, and effective coping strategies targeting the problems faced can help them in becoming fine dancers.
- Temple University Graduate Board. (2020, December). ILLUMINATING INVISIBILITY: A QUALITATIVE STUDY OF DANCERS WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES IN HIGHER EDUCATION DANCE PROGRAMS. Cassandra Lee Vander Well.
- Working memory in children’s math learning and its disruption in dyscalculia. (n.d.). Vinod Menon. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cobeha.2016.05.014