Is Your Child Bad At Math? You Should Check Them For Dyscalculia

·6-min read

As a child Adrian Tan dreaded math. For a good part of his childhood, they were just numbers but as he moved to higher classes, they started adding letters to the problems. And problems, indeed they were!

Even as his peers were quick at doing the simplest calculations, Adrian would have to rely on his fingers. Buying candy seemed like a task, and panic attacks before the math paper turned out to be a regular affair. He’d just want to run away as soon as he saw the numbers on the question paper. It was unusual to be struggling with basic math problems at the age of 13 years.

Surprisingly, that wasn’t the case with history, science, geography or languages. He’d sail right through without a problem. So what went wrong with math? Turns out, little did Adrian know then that he is suffering from dyscalculia. It’s a math learning disability that you’ve probably never heard of. And unsurprisingly, a lot of haven’t.

It’s often confused with dyslexia, which is a reading disorder or is even termed as ‘math dyslexia.’ However, dyscalculia is unrelated to dyslexia and affects the child differently too.

So, what is it? How can you identify it and what’s the dyscalculia treatment? We try and answer all your concerns below.

What Is Dyscalculia?

dyscalculia treatment
dyscalculia treatment

Image Source: Pexels

People with dyscalculia have difficulty understanding math concepts and equations. The level of dyscalculia differs from person to person.

While some may find it difficult to solve even simple math problems, there are others for whom equations and sums will seem completely foreign despite trying several times.

Sadly, dyscalculia isn’t as widely known and often overlapped with dyslexia. But students who suffer from the former may not necessarily have the latter.

Scientists too are still figuring out more details about dyscalculia and how it affects those people. Most scientists do believe that the disability is as common as dyslexia but not as widely known.

Studies suggest that about 60 per cent of people who’ve been diagnosed with deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are also likely to have dyscalculia.

What Causes Dyscalculia?

There’s no determined reason for dyscalculia in children. However, some experts believe that these reasons could be the major contributing factors:

  • Genes: Dyscalculia could run in families and may pass from one generation to another.

  • Brain development: Children with dyscalculia have shown to have slightly different brain development when compared to those who don’t have this learning disability.

Do remember, it wasn’t until the 1990s that people became aware of dyslexia and ADHD, so the road for dyscalculia is still steep. Experts suggest that about five to 10 per cent of the global population suffers from dyscalculia.

What Are Dyscalculia Symptoms?

dyscalculia treatment
dyscalculia treatment

Image Source: Pexels

If your child is unable to cope with understanding math year-on-year, and you think they may have dyscalculia, here are some of the signs to watch out for:

  • Kids find it difficult to count numbers, do basic math like addition, subtraction, multiplication

  • They find it difficult to remember math-related formulas

  • Kids struggle to count money and make change

  • They are unable to judge speed and distance

  • Kids with dyscalculia find it difficult to read a clock or remember phone numbers

  • Concepts like fractions, integers seem alien to them

  • They find it difficult to keep score during a game

Kids with dyscalculia may also be unable to read numbers on a dice without really counting. They also are more prone to having panic attacks or severe anxiety around numbers. So, like Adrian, kids detest from doing their math-related homework.

How Do You Diagnose Dyscalculia?

If you think your child requires dyscalculia treatment or have a history in the family, make sure to speak to your paediatrician or a psychologist. They will first rule out vision and hearing problems before checking for any learning disabilities in the child.

You must also speak to their math teacher to see how exactly are they lacking in the subject, while also confirming with other subject teachers on your child’s overall performance.

Doctors may also recommend you see a learning specialist who will speak to your child and help determine how severe is your child’s learning disability.

Specialists run educational and psychosocial tests on children that help determine the following:

1. Computational skills

To check how many how a young child solves simple problems like addition and subtraction, while an older kid may have to sold multiplication and fractions.

2. Math fluency

This test determines the child’s ability to recall basic math concepts like multiplication. So, 10 x 5 = 50.

3. Mental computation

More commonly known as mental math, this test will check your child’s ability to solve basic to intermediate math problems in their head.

4. Quantitative reasoning

This test checks the child’s ability to understand and comprehend a word problem and then solve the same.

What Is The Dyscalculia Treatment?

dyscalculia treatment
dyscalculia treatment

Image Source: Pexels

If your child is diagnosed with dyscalculia, they will just need a little bit of help from you, their teachers and even peers to get by. Do remember, kids with this learning ability may just do fine in other subjects, so it’s really about just giving them time to catch up.

Here’s what learning specialists recommend when it comes to dyscalculia treatment:

  • Try math-based learning games at home

  • Let your child practice math equations and sums more often to get a grasp on it

  • Give them time to solve a problem

  • Some students may require a calculator to complete their equations

  • Praise their hard work and let them know that it’s okay to take time

  • Opt for a private math tutor who has experience in handling children with learning disabilities

  • Keep reassuring them from time to time that they will be able to solve the problem

Parents should also speak to school authorities and their child’s math teacher on how to approach the subject keeping dyscalculia in mind. Here’s what you should ask for:

  • Extra time to complete exams, tests

  • The option to record lectures so your child can replay them

  • Using a calculator in class

  • Specialised coaching

As a parent of a child with dyscalculia, this disability requires a different educational approach. That’s why parents will have to be extremely supportive of their children as they do not feel like social outcasts.

At the same time, children need not feel that there is something lacking in them. While we don’t say your child will starting loving math, but with the help of dyscalculia treatment, they will be able to overcome several hurdles in learning.

Sources: WebMD, Dyslexia Association Singapore


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