Signs and symptoms of Dyscalculia

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Last Updated on July 3, 2020 by Editorial Team

MEDICALLY REVIEWED BY NUMBERDYSLEXIA’S MEDICAL REVIEW PANEL ON MAY 29, 2020

Today, we are going to talk about the symptoms of Dyscalculia. How can the signs of dyscalculia be identified early?

But first, we must know what exactly dyscalculia is?

Dyscalculia is a life long learning disability affecting a person’s ability to understand numbers and learn math facts. It is seen as the mathematical equivalent to dyslexia and hence, the name – Number Dyslexia. It severely affects the life of a dyscalculic (commonly referred to a person suffering from dyscalculia). Individuals may lose the ability to visually interpret data. In severe cases, Number dyslexia may develop into math phobia.

What are we gonna do about it?

Don’t worry. Just being a little cautious towards child behavior can help a long way in his/her future. Early you identify the signs, earlier the child will be able to adapt to a new learning process and overcome the struggle. It’s important to keep a daily check of the child’s learning pattern. Look up to his/her stuff such as homework, class test sheets, etc. to investigate any possible signs of dyscalculia. If found, don’t panic. Consult a qualified school psychologist or special education worker right away.

signs of dyscalculia or number dyslexia , symptoms of dyscalculia

What signs we should look for?

Dyscalculia is still an under-researched and understudied subject. Thus, there is no definite list of symptoms. The symptoms may change person to person. Severity may alter as the child grows. Please note that not all children may show all symptoms, and kids might occasionally have trouble with math. But children with dyscalculia will struggle a lot more than other kids who are the same age.

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Below given checklist can give you a better idea of dyscalculia signs at different age timeline.

Signs and symptoms of Dyscalculia in Children

Preschool or Kindergarten

  • Dyscalculic children have trouble in counting. They miss numbers while counting. They have difficulty operating addition sequences in mind. Dyscalculics, at this age, can’t relate arithmetic with real-life concepts. For instance, asking to hand over two apples will generally end up him/her bringing the whole pack of it.
  • Troubles in recognizing, forming patterns and distinguishing by size, shape, or color. Dyscalculics generally have a low ability to do comparisons at this age.
  • Dyscalculics will find it difficult to relate words to numerals – could not tell 8 or ‘Eight’ are the same. Their power of processing of written numbers is relatively less than a non-dyscalculic. They can’t quantify numbers as we can when a number comes up in our minds. For them, 7 maybe just one shorter and another long line connected at an angle.
  • Have trouble remembering numbers and other fundamentals arithmetic facts. They are generally slower in oral tests and need more effort to memorize stuff

Grade School or Middle School

  • Children with dyscalculia or number dyslexia at this age will have difficulty remembering fundamental facts of mathematics such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. For us, 2+ 8 = 10, but for dyscalculics, they have to put much effort to process their memory power to know what’s 2 and 8 and what are we doing with it.
  • Dyscalculics are usually less capable to do mental math and have to rely on fingers to count.
  • Students with dyscalculia will have trouble in understanding arithmetic symbols and often mess up equations like using ÷ in place of +, doing subtraction even though the question asked to do addition.
  • Comparison symbols, like < or >, and terms like greater than or smaller than are a nightmare for them.
  • Often times, they forget to apply the BODMAS rule to solve math questions.
  • Individuals suffering from number-dyslexia at this age will have trouble relating math to real-world concepts. They will find it difficult to keep up with the scorecard in sports, calculating the price of items, pocket money, show timings, countdown, and stopwatch.
  • Try to avoid situations involving mathematics such as board games, puzzles, studying, revisions and etc.
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High School

  • Students with dyscalculia may lack the ability to fully understand diagrams, analyze charts and decipher graphs.
  • The ability to relate the real world with maths may lack. Dyscalculics will find trouble in calculations relating to money. Difficulty in keeping up with the records of expenditure and savings.
  • They lack the sense of measurability like filling beaker up to the mark, using a measuring tape to measure distances, Distance = speed * time related calculations.
  • They can get confused while explaining or receiving directions.
  • Has trouble finding different approaches to the same math problem, such as simplifying 4x +24y = 100 as x + 6y = 25.
  • Struggles to learn and understand reasoning methods and multi-step calculation procedures
  • Negative attitude towards mathematics. In severe cases, developing a sense of phobia for math affecting other subjects as well.

Signs and symptoms of Dyscalculia in Adults

Typical symptoms include:

  • They may still lack to fundamentals of mathematics
  • They need the effort to perform calculations and usually take a longer time than others.
  • Dyscalculics are usually less capable to do mental math and have to rely on fingers to count
  • Dyscalculics may still lack number sense and poor ability to make estimates.
  • Difficulty in understanding place value
  • Messing up math equations and using addition often than any other operations.
  • Negative attitude towards mathematics. In severe cases, developing a sense of phobia for math affecting other activities as well.

Other symptoms

Some of the signs and symptoms other than the mentioned above are given below. It’s because they really didn’t fit any particular age group. The occurrence of these symptoms may not be directly related to age or mathematics.

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1. Having difficulty in reading. Either read slow or need full effort to manipulate words and make sentences.

2. Lack of focus. Dyscalculics will often struggle to put all their attention towards one thing at a time.

3. Spatial difficulties (not good at drawing, visualization, remembering arrangements of objects, understanding time/direction)

4. Short term memory difficulties (the literature on the relation between these and dyscalculia is very controversial)

5. Dyscalculics may have poor coordination of movement. It is referred to as dyspraxia.

6. Trouble analyzing trajectory. Our mind works in a way that when a ball is thrown to us, our brain starts processing parameters like speed, angle of projection, acceleration, wind, and gravity. On the basis of these parameters, the brain prepare calculations that derive our possibility of catching the ball or not. This brain’s ability to crack the code of the trajectory may lack in the dyscalculics.

7. Difficulty telling time, especially from an analog clock.


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