What is dyscalculia?

A long series of numbers

Dyscalculia, also known as “math LD” or “math disability,” is a learning disability affecting an individual’s ability to perform arithmetic calculations.

The term was coined by American paediatrician Dr Benet’s in the early 1900s.

Dyscalculia affects about 6% of the population, and it is more prevalent in males than females, although there is still very little known about dyscalcuila compared to other neurodiverse conditions such as autism. For example, studies into the causes of dyscalculia are about 30 years behind research into dyslexia.

The difference between dyscalculia and dyslexia

Dyslexia is a cognitive disorder that affects one’s ability to read, write, and/or spell words. It is most commonly thought to be the result of the brain not being able to process language.

Dyscalculia is a specific and persistent difficulty in understanding numbers which can lead to a diverse range of difficulties with mathematics. It will be unexpected in relation to age, level of education and experience and occurs across all ages and abilities.

Causes include:

  • genetic inheritance
  • brain injury
  • traumatising events that happened in childhood

It’s thought that the lack of number sense that is often common to people with dyscalculia is connected to the function of the left intraparietal sulcus (an area of the brain which deals with numbers) and the front lobe (which deals with reasoning).

It can therefore be a hereditary condition, but can also be connected to certain developmental conditions like Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Typical signs and symptoms

Symptoms of dyscalculia vary widely from person to person, but may include the following:

  • Difficulty in understanding and performing arithmetic calculations
  • A lack of understanding in mathematics
  • Difficulty in solving math problems
  • Difficulty in learning math concepts such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division
  • Difficulty in understanding and performing basic numerical skills such as counting, categorisation, and ordering
  • Difficulty in understanding and performing written or math concepts
  • Struggling with telling time
  • Struggling with writing numbers in order
  • Struggling with counting money
  • Being able to tell left from right

Individuals who have dyscalculia are often described as being creative with good imaginations and can be extremely hard workers. Individuals diagnosed with dyscalculia can have a high IQ.