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Unraveling dyscalculia

Updated on March 13, 2014
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By Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin

I have to confess that I'm a language person and not a fan of numbers of algebra, though my mental arithmetic is competent enough.

I don't have dyscalculia, but having struggled with maths throughout secondary school, I empathize completely with anyone hampered by this inability.

This lesser known phenomenon can cause quite a bit of angst, even among those who are competent in utilizing linguistic, spatial or other areas of the brain. If you know someone who struggles with Maths but doesn't quite know why, there may be ways to help him.

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Definition

Dyscalculia is essentially a difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic understanding or manipulating numbers or registering mathematical facts.

A developmental disorder, it's like its sister Dyslexia, though is probably lesser known and researched

This condition can occur in anyone across a whole range of intelligence quotients. CEOs and businessmen have been known to function admirably with this condition.

Who is your favorite dyscalculic?

Who is your favorite dyscalculic?

See results

Famous dyscalculics

Famous people have been known to suffer from Dyscalculia. Artists like Cher have been diagnosed with the condition. Henry Winkler of Happy Days and Fonzie fame is a dyslexic and suffers from dyscalculia as well.

Perhaps the most surprising person you'd expect to have had dyscalculia is world renowned physicist Albert Einstein, who, because of the debilitating condition, nearly dropped out of school.

Source

Dyscalculia could be caused by..

  • a hereditary condition
  • disruptions in memory or memory deficits
  • inadequacy in teaching mathods

Causes

Experts and researchers have given a whole range of reasons to explain the presence of dyscalculia, though none of these are very definite.


• Dyscalculia has been attributed to brain lesions in the Brodmann and angular gyrus areas of the brain, which determines our ability to associate with visual symbols and numbers.


• Other research points to deficits in working memory as an explanation for a person's inability to form associations with numbers. Short term memory may have had disruption or reduction, causing an inability to remember calculations.


• Dyscalculia can be an inherited or inborn condition. Studies of those with mathematical inclinations revealed the same in family members.


• Some, like Cambridge College Dean Mahesh Sharma, have blamed poor math outcomes on the school system and maintains that teachers haven't been adequately trained in the latest technology or teaching tools.

Famous Dyscalculics

Signs

A person or child would exhibit signs that point to dyscalculia, but the most asked question would be "How would I know that my child is dyscalculic and not simply a slow learner disinterested in mathematics?"

The first sign of dyscalculia is a poor retrieval or understanding of mathematical facts, though one shouldn't jump to a diagnosis of dyscalculia based on that alone.

To make the diagnosis of dyscalculia easier, research has unveiled a particular phenomenon that occurs with those who suffer from it. As the distance between two numbers decreases, e.g. 3 to 5 versus 1 to 5, more mathematical errors tend to be made. A person with dyscalculia may find it difficult to process addition facts as numbers grow smaller.

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Treatment

The INSERM-CEA Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit has developed a gamed primarily targeted at helping children with dyscalculia. The game addresses a child's inability to process smaller numbers by providing fun practice with digits between 1-10.

Practice with concrete sets or number words is available between 1 to 40.

The computer game is set attractively in the underwater or jungle world and the fun of it is that any number of players can join in.

The character the child chooses to play the game with must select numbers in order to advance on the track. To win, these must be bigger than his opponents.

To teach children with a poor concept of mathematics....

  • avoid memory overload.
  • constantly reinforce
  • teach misrules
  • pre-teach component skills
  • use drawings and manipulatives
  • explain everyday functions

Strategies for teaching children with Dyscalculia

Teaching a student who suffers from low mathematical ability requires baby steps, few pointers and tricks up a parents' or teachers' sleeves.

Avoid stressing memory

When teaching maths to a child with dyscalculia, try to avoid memory overload. He won't be able to process concepts as well as others, so break down and assign manageable tasks.

Constant review and repetition

Provide constant review of his newly learned skills with similar problems but different numbers, making sure that these are in the lower numerical range.

Misrules

Provide the child with the opportunity to practice some misrules. Encourage him to spot mistakes in arithmetic concepts.

Teach component skills

Pre-teach skills that associate with those you want the child to learn. If you want the child to learn division, basic addition and subtraction should be revised with the child to make his processing easier.

Drawing and manipulatives

Illustrations always help a child visualize mathematical concepts. Manipulatives are concrete materials a child can work with to practice basic arithmetic concepts.

Everyday functions

Teach a child how mathematical concepts function in everyday use. Get him to assist in activities like grocery shopping or buying take out to build his confidence with numbers.

,Teaching a student who suffers from low mathematical ability requires baby steps, few pointers and tricks up a parents' or teachers' sleeves.

Avoid stressing memory

When teaching maths to a child with dyscalculia, try to avoid memory overload. He won't be able to process concepts as well as others, so break down and assign manageable tasks.

Constant review and repetition

Provide constant review of his newly learned skills with similar problems but different numbers, making sure that these are in the lower numerical range.

Misrules

Provide the child with the opportunity to practice some misrules. Encourage him to spot mistakes in arithmetic concepts.

Teach component skills

Pre-teach skills that associate with those you want the child to learn. If you want the child to learn division, basic addition and subtraction should be revised with the child to make his processing easier.

Drawing and manipulatives

Illustrations always help a child visualize mathematical concepts. Manipulatives are concrete materials a child can work with to practice basic arithmetic concepts.

Everyday functions

Teach a child how mathematical concepts function in everyday use. Get him to assist in activities like grocery shopping or buying take out to build his confidence with numbers.

Conclusion

Dyscalculia doesn't have to debilitate, but must be managed with a lot of patience.


By Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin All Rights Reserved

Comments

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    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      3 years ago from Singapore

      Hey Paula! Glad to make it known!

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 

      3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      Hi Michelle, I was not aware of this condition. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Janet!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Joelle!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Kerlund!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Mackyl.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for sharing! Hope it helps, truthfornow.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Rebecca!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Dreamer Meg!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      4 years ago from Singapore

      We now know it, Martie!! And it's a relief!

    • kerlund74 profile image

      kerlund74 

      4 years ago from Sweden

      This was interesting! I never heard of this diagnose. Great written hub with good suggestions how to handle Dyscalculia.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Nithya!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Eddy!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, I hope he'll find it relevant!!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      4 years ago from Singapore

      Great to think about Jayme, Thanks!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      4 years ago from Singapore

      If she had a problem with even simple arithmetic, then the answer is probably yes, Jackie!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Sujaya.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Jhamann! I'm sure she doesn't!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Chitra!glad that it's been useful!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      4 years ago from Singapore

      Tanks, DDE!

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 

      4 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      I like that you included lots of tips on how to deal with the condition. It seems like a number of people struggle with math, and they should be testing kids for this condition so they can get help. Very informative.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 

      4 years ago from Wales

      Very useful for many I am sure.

      Eddy.

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 

      4 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Thank you very much for this hub - very useful. Looks like a good game from thenumbercatcher by INSEA. I am going to try this with my granddaughter when she comes later today.

    • janetwrites profile image

      Janet Giessl 

      4 years ago from Georgia country

      I have never been good at numbers. There were times at school where one might have thought I had dyscalculia but then I was able to get a good grade in math at the final exams at high school. Thank you for sharing this useful and informational hub about this condition.

    • Bk42author profile image

      Brenda Thornlow 

      4 years ago from New York

      I've never heard of this condition unti your hub. I'll have to share this with my husband as he's a general ed teacher who focuses on math. Voted up!

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 

      4 years ago from Oklahoma

      Excellent hub, and one that hit very close to home. I excelled in every subject except math. I could learn it, but I had to study it every day, and refresh, refresh, refresh in order to retain it. I managed to keep an A in math, but had to study so hard to do it. Ten times harder than any other subject. And I still have to stop and look up how to do certain functions.

      Doubt it is worth worry about this late in life, but it was interesting to know that it could be hereditary. Will definitely be something to keep in mind if my own children struggle any! Great hub, pinning and voting!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      4 years ago from Dubai

      Never knew about this condition, thank you for sharing this. Informative and useful hub.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I wonder if this is what my daughter had? She was an honor student but math was so hard for her. She could get it and by the next morning everything she knew was gone! Her father and I both excelled at this so it was so hard to understand how she could get it when we taught her but it just would not stay with her.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      4 years ago from South Africa

      Good to know there is a name for the inability to calculate. People suffering from Dyscalculia find themselves even in a worse position than those suffering only Dyslexia.

      Thanks for a well-written, informative hub, midget :)

    • mackyi profile image

      I.W. McFarlane 

      4 years ago from Philadelphia

      This is a very interesting and informative hub. Thanks for your enlightenment.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 

      4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      What a great hub, Michelle. At school I saw so many kids with problems in math. But what is interesting they are not the same problem for all the kids. It can be a problem of readins skills for solving problems, or fear of math given by parents themselves or a more serious problem like dyscaldulia. It's important to be able to help each kid with his or her specific problem because math is so important in everyday life!

      I am so happy that you mentioned "Constant review and repetition". For some kids understanding the concepts once it's not enough they need to see it several times. Manipulation of concrete objects is so important too. Not every child learns the same way and we have to adapt education to help the different learning style!

      Great hub, Michelle! Thank you for sharing!

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 

      4 years ago from Reno NV

      Very educational hub, thank you. I think that my wife may have this disorder, only kidding. Jamie

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Bill.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Never heard of it and knew nothing about it. Thanks for the education.

    • sujaya venkatesh profile image

      sujaya venkatesh 

      4 years ago

      a useful one mid

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      An informative hub!

      The interesting facts opens our eyes to know more of 'Dyscalculia', and off the reasons for having this issue a well advised hub.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      This is truly wonderful hub!

      I have seen many students, who were not good in Mathematics. All efforts to better them could not help at all or showed only marginal improvement. I did not know there was a name 'Dyscalculia', to describe it.

      In any case, if the basics of Arithmetic are not clear and strong, its very difficult to deal with this.

      Very nice and informative hub! Voted up and shared on HP!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I was a terrible math student. Numbers are not my thing either. I am not sure if I have dyscalculia or not though. I wonder if people can have a degree of it or is it always just full-blown. I like your remediation strategies.

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