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In a TED talk Line Rothman asked an audience to raise their hand if they had heard of the learning disability dyslexia. The majority of people in the audience raised their hand. Then, she asked the audience to raise their hand if they had ever heard of the learning disability dyscalculia and this time very few audience members put their hand up.

Dyscalculia is a specific learning disorder in mathematical concepts. It’s often called “dyslexia for math.” However, it differs from dyslexia in that those who have dyscalculia don’t struggle with reading the numbers correctly, instead they struggle with their ability to understand numbers, math concepts and other “left brained” concepts in both an academic environment and in real world situations.

Although research has been done on dyscalculia since the 1950’s, it is still widely misunderstood and seldom discussed. There have been debates among researchers regarding the criteria to give a proper diagnoses. It has been estimated that only 3-6% of the population has the disorder. However, some researchers believe it is much higher.

It is my contention and that of many researchers that the disorder is often misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed. There are a few reasons this may be. First, as mentioned earlier there has not been much agreement on the criteria for dyscalculia. Another reason may be that math is known to be a difficult subject in itself. When someone can’t read, it immediately sends a red flag to educators and parents. However, when someone struggles in math it is more common to dismiss it and say, “Well they’re just not good at math.” Therefore only the really severe dyscalculiacs get tested while those with mild to moderate dyscalculia are forced to fail classes and struggle with everyday math concepts believing they are simply not smart enough.

Some of the difficulties dyscalculiacs may face are:

Difficulty reading analog clocks

Counting on their fingers for simple addition such as 5+3 even in adulthood.

Difficulty stating which of two numbers is larger

Inability to comprehend simple financial planning or budgeting such as balancing a checkbook 

Difficulty with multiplication-tables, and subtraction-tables, addition tables, division tables, mental arithmetic, etc.

Difficulty with conceptualizing time and judging the passing of time. May be chronically late or early

Problems with differentiating between left and right

Difficulty reading musical notation

Difficulty navigating or mentally “turning” the map to face the current direction rather than the common North=Top usage

Having particular difficulty mentally estimating the measurement of an object or distance (e.g., whether something is 3 or 6 meters (10 or 20 feet) away).

Inability to grasp and remember mathematical concepts, rules, formulae, and sequences

Dyscalculia, like many other disabilities, range in severity and type. This leads to more misunderstanding. For example, someone might be able to receive an A on a calculus test but struggle to read an analog clock. Since people are rarely tested on their ability to tell time, this person may never be considered a dyscalculiac.

I created this page to spread an awareness on dyscalculia and other mathematic learning disabilities.  I welcome everyone who reads this to share my posts and message me with any personal stories, opinions or relevant information you would like to share.

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