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Dyscalculia in kids

Does your child struggle with math? How to identify Dyscalculia

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My daughter has long struggled with math. I still remember when she was learning to count to 20 in preschool and would always get hung up in the teens. Her problems augmented over the years and we spent a lot of money on tutors and additional aides. It was a joyous day when she took her final math class (for her and us!)

It wasn’t until she was almost finished high school that I had a lightbulb moment when I attended a work event dedicated to learning about dyslexia, a learning disorder in reading. There was a brief mention of Dyscalculia, a learning disability to makes it hard for kids to understand and learn to do math. 

So, when do math difficulties mean something more? A tremendous resource we used is The Dyscalculia Toolkit which helps leaners ages 6 to 14 who have difficulties with math and numbers. 

What is Dyscalculia? 

According to the Child Mind Institute, lots of kids struggle with math. But if your child’s math troubles are serious and don’t seem to get better, they may be a sign of something called dyscalculia. Dyscalculia is a specific learning disorder, which means it only affects how children learn math. A child with dyscalculia may do well in other subjects — like English or history — and still struggle in classes that use math.

Does Dyscalcuila cause all math difficulties?

Not all problems with math — even serious ones — are caused by dyscalculia. Disorders like dyslexia, visual or auditory processing issues, and ADHD can also make it hard to learn math. So what should parents watch for? Young kids with dyscalculia might have trouble recognizing numbers, learning to count, or recognizing basic patterns.

As kids get older they might have trouble remembering numbers (like zip codes or game scores) and have a hard time telling left from right or figuring out distances. Other signs include struggling with things like making change, reading clocks, or figuring out how long a task will take.

What to look for

According to Dyscalcullia.org, young children struggle with:

  • left and right
  • directionality
  • counting reliably
  • number-amount associations
  • memory of numbers and quantitative information
  • memory of instructions
  • short-term memory
  • working memory
  • time awareness
  • telling time
  • time management, schedules
  • organization
  • sequencing
  • procedures for arithmetic
  • place value
  • memory of addition and multiplication facts
  • memory of math rules
  • mental arithmetic
  • calculation
  • visualization
  • name-face memory
  • visual memory
  • visual-spatial discrimination, interpretation, processing, and memory.
  • unconscious errors with numbers and symbols when reading, listening, thinking (reasoning), copying, writing, and speaking.
    think slowly and carefully, and operate without confidence.
  • When tasked in their deficit areas, may demonstrate agitation, distress, anxiety, anger, avoidance, and resistance.
    Children grow into dyscalculic adults who exhibit the same problems, but become better at hiding and managing their difficulties.

Though research on prevalence is limited, it’s estimated that between 5 and 7% of elementary school-aged children may have dyscalculia. It’s also currently thought that dyscalculia occurs equally in both genders.

Additional Resources

The Dyscalculia Resource Book for ages 7 to 14 (second edition)

Math Workbook for Kids with Dyscalculia. A resouce toolkit book with 100 fun math activities.

How to Spot Dyscalculia

How to Help Kids with Dyscalculia

Anciety and Children: How to help your child through the school year

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