When 2 + 2 ≠ 4: Could Your Child Have Dyscalculia?

If your child is academically on point when it comes to reading, language, and science, but finds math to be a constant struggle (nightmare is more like it), they may have developmental dyscalculia. Without proper intervention, this learning disability can lead to anxiety and low self-esteem, even if they excel in other subjects. Here’s what you need to know about this developmental dyscalculia:

What is Dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia is a math learning disability where severe difficulties in learning about numbers and arithmetic are present. Some indicators include the language surrounding math (sum, divide, total) mental math (estimating visual numbers in your head), spatial relations (maps, directions), and formulas such as scoring for a card game or sport, and measurement (clocks, weight, measuring cups).

It affects about 6 percent of people, and is about as common as the reading disorder, dyslexia but it far less understood. This may be because it is socially more acceptable to be “bad at math”, versus not being able to read. Unfortunately, studies on reading disabilities outnumber research on math disabilities by a ratio of 14 to 1.

Have You Noticed This at Home?

The leading sign of a specific learning disorder is a noticeable inconsistency between ability and aptitude. A child (or adult) with dyscalculia may perform well in other subjects – such as English or science – but struggle to get a passing grade in math or any math-based class. Dyscalculia tends to hinder even the most basic skills, such as adding. Some other things you may have noticed:

  • A delay in learning to count
  • Counting on their fingers
  • Loses track when counting
  • Difficulty recognizing numbers
  • Struggles with a variety of math-related daily activities, such as telling time, counting money, or measuring ingredients when you cook together
  • Poor sense of direction
  • Struggles to connect numerical symbols (7) with their corresponding words (seven)
  • Has difficulty recognizing patterns and placing things in order
  • Struggles with playing games that require number strategies, counting, and consistent score keeping
  • Difficulty reading clocks and telling time

How Is Dyscalculia Diagnosed?

A comprehensive evaluation that includes a physical and learning profile is needed to diagnose dyscalculia. Start with your child’s doctor. Rule out any medical issues like a vision or hearing problem. Math issues are common in children with certain genetic disorders, ADD, or who were born prematurely.

Next, talk with your child’s teacher and ask if they notice any particular areas of math that your child is struggling with. For example, does your child seem to be a passive learner and wait for help instead of raising their hand? Do they struggle with remembering and retaining while still trying to pay attention to the whole lesson plan? Do they seem anxious and frustrated in math class but not in other classes? Your teacher should be able to direct you to an educational professional who is trained to give specific tests and evaluation, so you have the comprehensive feedback to use to get the help your child needs.


Your school should be able to work with students with dyscalculia by providing hands-on materials, extra time for assessments, and a lot of repetition and real-life examples of math. However, overcrowded classes may leave little time for the individual attention your child needs. Or maybe your child isn’t responding to the teacher’s interventions or after school help.

To ensure your child gets the help they need, you may want to go a step further and get an Individualized Education Program (IEP).  To receive special education services, your child must have this. It is a legal document that specifically details your child’s learning needs, the services the school will provide, and how progress will be evaluated. Professional evaluation and approval of the IEP team is needed for approval.

How You Can Help

Dealing with dyscalculia on a daily basis can be very frustrating and embarrassing for your child. It can negatively affect other areas outside the classroom. Be upfront and honest about the difficulties dyscalculia can cause – like having a hard time counting change when they bought a toy last week. Acknowledge their struggles and praise their accomplishments, big and small. Help them recognize their individual strengths. Do they have a knack for writing interesting short stories? A wicked sense of humor? Offer plenty of positive feedback.

Helping your child understand their learning disorder can give your child the tools and confidence they need to manage dyscalculia and have a happy and successful school and social life.

Does your child have dyscalculia? How do you help them manage it? Share your stories and advice with us.

Tags : education   school   development   math   

Melly Morita
I had no idea about this!!