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Dyscalculia - How to Manage this Disability with Numbers

Updated on May 7, 2013
Simple numbers can be confusing and patterns unreconizable - can you read numbers upside down?
Simple numbers can be confusing and patterns unreconizable - can you read numbers upside down? | Source

Living with Dyscalculia

I have Dyscalculia - sometimes I refer to it as numeric dyslexia which people "get" more easily. The picture opposite demonstrates how my brain feels when I see numbers - the numbers are not necessarily upside down but I cannot understand them.

Having Dyscalculia means:

  • I do not see or understand patterns with numbers
  • Dial or press incorrect numbers repeatedly
  • Record telephone or other numbers in the wrong order or incorrectly
  • answer multiple choice questions to which I know the answer backwards - thus getting an incorrect score
  • Failing tests
  • Inability to understand and manage finances and financial reports
  • Inability to create statistical information and reports.

I am able to add up numbers, but subtraction, multiplication and anything beyond simple and basic math is a serious challenge.

When I was in school, although Dyscalculia was known about, it was not recognized in my case and I was sent to the "stupid" class. Really, that was what the class was called by students and teachers. Sadly because I could not pass math I was not permitted to attend the art class - ironically later in life I trained as an expressive art therapist and have spent my professional life in mostly creative situations film making, writing, researching and as an art therapist.

As an adult I have managed to overcome the limitations by being upfront with friends, my family and my employers. When I have tried to "cheat" and look like I have known what I was doing such as submitting stats without help, they have come back to my desk. My supervisor is very understanding and patient - I am good with people and they didn't hire me for my math skills! However somedays I can still feel "stupid" .

I have learned to be very precise about how much I spend and rely on cash and paying my bills automatically on line. I do not use a credit card other than a prepaid one.

Professionally, I have attended and passed Myers Briggs in the Workplace Facilitation. However, I cannot pass the statistical component of the test to administer Myers Briggs personality type tests. Therefore I co-facilitate Myers Briggs workshops and testing.

I am always on time and usually early. One of my adapted strengths has been to always allow more time than I need - being late is very stressful for me and it has to do with the numbers rather than the social aspect. Although that is important too.

Definition of Dyscalculia - states that:

Dyscalculia (also called math disability or numlexia) is a specific learning disability involving difficulty in learning or comprehending math. It is akin to dyslexia and includes difficulty in understanding numbers, learning how to manipulate numbers, learning maths facts, and a number of other related symptoms. Math disabilities can also occur as the result of some types of brain injury, in which case the proper term is acalculia. to distinguish it from dyscalculia which is of innate, genetic or developmental origin.

Although math learning difficulties do occur in children with low iq dyscalculia also affects people from across the whole IQ range, and sufferers often, but not always, also have difficulties with time, measurement, and spatial reasoning Estimates of the prevalence of dyscalculia range between 3 and 6% of the population.

Getting a Diagnosis for Dyscalculia

Sad to say that Dyscalculia is still oftentimes overlooked and a student struggling with math may not be offered testing for this. The screening tool at offers a 30 minute test that can be adminisitered by an appropriate professional for children ages 6 to 14 years.

For adults, testing is more complex but some professional educational psychologists can do testing specifically for this disability.

Why Testing or Diagnosis Can be Important

Testing for Dyscalculia is important because it can bring in extra financial dollars for additional school help and or tutoring outside of school depending on the country, province or state in which you live.

A formal diagnosis will also assist later in life at university or college to provide accommodations that will help the student take a test successfully. This may be more time, an aide such as a calculator or forumula sheet, verbal testing, or a written summary of the subject rather than multiple choice.

Dyscalculia -

Do You or Someone You Know have Dyscalculia?

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    • profile image

      marcy 3 years ago

      thank-you for this article. I live in BC as well, in the lower mainland. I am wondering where or how I would go about getting my child tested for this. My son is very bright in every other subject but Math. I can see him trying but he struggles, some days are better than others. Some days he can add, but on a bad day, he will struggle with 5 plus 1. At first I just thought he was having math anxiety as his grade 1 teacher did mad minute drills with him. I have homeschooled him this past year, and it just feels like something is not right. He is grade four, but I have him doing grade two Math. I can teach him something one day, and he will go okay I get it, the next day we try again, and it is like he did not learn it at all the first time. I mostly see this with trying to teach him any mental math tricks. He does have some number sense though, he can tell what number is bigger going up to 100. He struggles with place value etc... I ordered a math curiculm called rightstart math, which uses a modified abacus, and lots of hands on learning, hoping this may help. I can see how frustrated he is and how much he wants to know it!

    • Lizam1 profile image

      Lizam1 4 years ago from Victoria BC

      Thanks for commenting teaches, even though there are testing methods sadly many teachers and special ed.teaches are not taught about this problem in many cases.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      It is sad that you had to experience such frustration in learning at a young age. I didn't realize it could happen with numbers. Good to know that there are testing methods to help children overcome this disability.

    • Lizam1 profile image

      Lizam1 4 years ago from Victoria BC

      Rob Winters thank you for reading and your votes. Appreciate meeting you on hub pages.

    • Rob Winters profile image

      Rob Winters 4 years ago

      Very interesting & informative hub Lizam1. Most people have heard of Dyslexia and whilst i was aware of Dyscalculia i'm pretty sure most people have never even heard of it. Your examples provide a great insight on how this condition can impact on peoples lives.Voting Up & Useful :-)

    • Lizam1 profile image

      Lizam1 4 years ago from Victoria BC

      Thanks kidscraft. I do wish that they would include information about this to teachers. When I mentioned it to the math teacher at my daughters school (because I cannot help my daughter with her math homework) she had never heard of it either. This got her thinking about two specific children she seemed unable to help with their math. Thanks for your comment.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Interesting hub Lizam! Thank you for all that information. Even as a teacher I never heard of it or met a kid who would have such a problem. I had some kids with dyslexia... and it make sense that the same thing could happen for numbers. It must have been quite a challenge at school first and with everyday life after!

      It's great that you educate people about that.... a new thing learned for me today! Thank you!

    • Lizam1 profile image

      Lizam1 4 years ago from Victoria BC

      Thanks for comemnting Vickiw - once I got over the "I'm stupid label" I have managed to find ways and means to adapt the number challenge. Still amazed that some people look at me as to say "math is so simple , why can't you just get it " though!

    • profile image

      Vickiw 4 years ago

      Very interesting Hub. That must be quite a challenge to live with, as we have to deal with so many numbers on a daily basis. I have always been incapable of learning my social security number or any other number that seeks to identify me, but I think that is because I resent the idea of being a number! You must be a very courageous lady, and I am so pleased that you have managed to be upfront with your problem, once it was identified. Great hub!