Dyscalculia: Problems With Learning Mathematics?
Bad at Arithmetic?
Did you have serious problems trying to learn basic maths in school, or do you know of a child who is experiencing this?
Have you heard of dyscalculia?
The videos here go a long way to describing and offering some help for this condition, which is akin to the much more widely known dyslexia. Whereas a dyslexic has word blindness - to over-simplify the condition - a dyscalculic person has number blindness.
This means that anything requiring numbers, such as mental arithmetic, remembering phone numbers, using a calculator or understanding the mechanics of mathematics is incredibly difficult. If a child, for example, is doing fine on other subjects like English, History, Art, Geography or Biology, but struggles badly with scientific equations or the times-table, then there is a possibility that dyscalculia may lie at the root of the problem.
As well as having obvious numerical problems, a dyscalculic may also possess a poor sense of direction, be a poor judge of distance or speed, and have trouble visulalising the quantity of anything.
Don't rush to self-diagnose or to diagnose your own child - this condition needs to be properly diagnosed by an expert, of course.
Problems in school can also be caused by poor teaching, classroom distractions, bullying, weak eyesight, hearing problems, or simply by being bored. All these possibilities need to be carefully considered and investigated.
Video by the National Center for Learning Disabilities
My Experience of Dyscalculia.
As a junior school pupil, I dreaded maths lessons. Those stupid little scratches on the blackboard, usually called numbers, made no sense. I knew that in some way they were supposed to be related to each other and to symbolise something, but the code to crack this remained a total mystery.
We pupils would be handed lists of problems to solve, which involved identifying the wrong number in a sequence. Or we'd have to state which number came next in the sequence, or fill in the missing numbers within the sequence. Ha! Not a chance. I'd sit gloomily staring at this bewildering mess of scratchy shapes and give up. I knew I could try for eternity and still never figure it out.
Can't Remember Numbers
Trying to memorise multiplication tables was hopeless. The tens were easy, as you just stuck a zero on the end of everything. The elevens were easy up until you had to do more than just double the number, as in 2x11=22. After endless sleepless nights I managed to memorise some of the six times table, but I'd have to silently chant the entire thing in order to arrive at the multiplication that I needed.
As for mental arithmetic, forget it. My brain responded with a total blank.
But I was good at English and Art, and other non-numerical subjects. My reading skills were so in advance of my age that the headmaster was impressed. "Do you like school?" he said. "Are you bored?" We weren't allowed to admit to being bored at home, not unless we wanted to risk being given a pile of chores and an even heavier burden of ear-ache, and so I politely lied and replied that I enjoyed school. Either I was a good liar or he wasn't sufficiently interested to discern the truth.
Yes, I was bored at school - bored silly every single day. I'd listen to the teacher droning on about cavemen hunting dinosaurs and similar nonsense, and to escape from the monotony I'd gaze out of the window and daydream, and go off into fantasy worlds of my own creation. Maybe this is how I became a writer.
Fortunately, my parents relocated to another area and my new junior school was much better, and the teachers more pro-active. That I struggled with maths was quickly noticed, and even though no mention of dyscalculia was ever made my teacher, a lovely lady named Miss Bingham, isolated part of the problem - that of a difficulty in understanding quantity. She came up with the solution of giving me small toy building bricks as to use for counting. I'd lay these out and move them around from one pile to another, then add up the result. For example, if the calculation was 3x8 I would line up three rows of eight toy bricks then add them all together.
Yet at the same time I was helping the teacher coach other kids in my class at reading.
Early Warning Signs to Look Out For
It wasn't until my second year of high school that the phrase "numerical dyslexia" was mentioned, and even then nothing was done about it. I struggled on, and figured out a way of working with numbers by visualising the dots from dice and adding, or subtracting, these one by one. If the column of figures was more than three deep, I'd literally draw the dots onto the paper I was working things out on. It's a method I still use. It's slow but accurate.
Calculators! You might think the advent of the pocket calculator would have made things easier. No it doesn't. I press the wrong buttons without meaning to. Twos turn into sevens, threes turn into eights, and nines go haywire on occasion. I also suspect I somehow zap the electronic circuits and make calculators have nervous breakdowns...but that can't be true, can it?!!
I have the same effect on cash registers. One time, in work, I rang-up the sale of two £5 mugs and got something like £98.67 as the total. Now that's what I call inflation.
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Had You Heard of Dyscalculia Before?
- Dyscalculia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Dyscalculia or math disability is a specific learning disability involving innate difficulty in learning or comprehending mathematics. It is akin to dyslexia and can include confusion about math symbols.
- Dyscalculia in Schools
Dyscalculic learners may have difficulty understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers, and have problems learning number facts and procedures.
- National Dyscalculia Centre
The National Dyscalculia Centre has published a range of books and materials for teachers and parents of dyscalculic children that will enable you to work with your dyscalculic child at home.
- Dyscalculia.org ~ Math Learning Disability Resource
Dyscalculia.org is a global resource for math learning disability, dyscalculia, learning problems in mathematics, remediation, diagnostic testing, teacher and student training...
© 2010 Adele Cosgrove-Bray