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Dyscalculia – The Hidden Disability

DyscalculiaDo you, dear readers, struggle with math? Is there a discrepancy between your math skills and your writing or verbal skills? Did math just not “make sense” to you when you were in school? Did you ever joke that you have “math dyslexia”? Are there psychological scars and feelings of low self-esteem stemming from being told “that you’re stupid” from not being able to understand a basic math problem? Does math in general make you anxious?

If you’re sitting there reading the above statement going “wow, that sounds like me”, than you might have undiagnosed dyscalculia. Dyscalculia refers to a math learning disability; however it’s not just math that Dyscalculics struggle with, we also struggle with right/left orientation, telling time, learning rules in games, etc.
Four to six percent of the world’s population is dyscalculic, but because there’s so little public knowledge on the disability, it often goes unnoticed and dyscalculics don’t get the help they need.

The symptoms, as listed from Dyscalculia.org are as follows:

[adinserter block=”2″]• Normal or accelerated language acquisition: verbal, reading, writing. Poetic ability. Good visual memory for the printed word. Good in the areas of science (until a level requiring higher math skills is reached), geometry (figures with logic not formulas), and creative arts.
• Mistaken recollection of names. Poor name/face retrieval. Substitute names beginning with same letter.
Difficulty with the abstract concepts of time and direction. Inability to recall schedules, and sequences of past or future events. Unable to keep track of time. May be chronically late.
• Inconsistent results in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Poor mental math ability. Poor with money and credit. Cannot do financial planning or budgeting. Checkbooks not balanced. Short term, not long term financial thinking. Fails to see big financial picture. May have fear of money and cash transactions. May be unable to mentally figure change due back, the amounts to pay for tips, taxes, etc.
• When writing, reading and recalling numbers, these common mistakes are made: number additions, substitutions, transpositions, omissions, and reversals.
• Inability to grasp and remember math concepts, rules, formulas, sequence (order of operations), and basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts. Poor long term memory (retention & retrieval) of concept mastery- may be able to perform math operations one day, but draw a blank the next! May be able to do book work but fails all tests and quizzes.
• May be unable to comprehend or “picture” mechanical processes. Lack “big picture/ whole picture” thinking. Poor ability to “visualize or picture” the location of the numbers on the face of a clock, the geographical locations of states, countries, oceans, streets, etc.
• Poor memory for the “layout” of things. Gets lost or disoriented easily. May have a poor sense of direction, loose things often, and seem absent minded.
• May have difficulty grasping concepts of formal music education. Difficulty sight-reading music, learning fingering to play an instrument, etc.
• May have poor athletic coordination, difficulty keeping up with rapidly changing physical directions like in aerobic, dance, and exercise classes. Difficulty remembering dance step sequences, rules for playing sports.
• Difficulty keeping score during games or difficulty remembering how to keep score in games, like bowling, etc. Often looses track of whose turn it is during games, like cards and board games. Limited strategic planning ability for games, like chess.
If you suspect that your child or even yourself of having a Math Learning Disability, I highly recommend the process of getting tested for a learning disability. There’s a few different ways to do this: either by going through the special education services at your child’s school, with a registered educational psychologist, or a neuropsychologist.

[adinserter block=”1″]Why is it important to get diagnosed? Well, first of all it will bring reassurance that you or your child is not “stupid” or “not trying hard enough”. Second of all, especially for dyscalculics still in school, an official diagnosis allows for accommodations for their learning disability: extra time for math tests, tutors, etc. These accommodations will allow the dyscalculic to succeed in their math classes and when one is older and looking for a job, to give definitive proof to their employer that they are learning disabled.

There is no shame in finding out that you have a math learning disability. With the right accommodations, Dyscalculics can learn the skills and coping mechanisms they need in order to work with their learning disability to lead a “normal” life.

For more information, please visit Dyscalculia.org and the Dyscalculia Forums.



  1. I've been seeing more info about Dyscalculia recently but don't know much about it. My kids were diagnosed with auditory processing disorder but they present differently and one fits here almost perfectly. Thanks for the info. This is certainly something I need to find out more about.

  2. Well made points about dyscalculia. Most things you read about covers the learning disability of dyslexia which is associated with disabilities in language, particularly reading. I agree with you that diagnosis is the first step in dealing with the situation. Once you have identified the problem there are always ways to get the help you need.
    .-= Christine´s last blog ..Children with Dyslexia – What Parents Need to Know =-.

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