Symptoms & Characteristics
Dyscalculia is a math learning disability that impairs an individual's ability to lean number-related concepts, perform accurate math calculations, reason and problem solve, and perform other basic math skills. The word dyscalculia comes from Greek and Latin and simply means counting badly. Today, the word serves as a broad term for learning difficulties in math. About 5% (3 - 6%) of people struggle with this learning disability.
Genetics can play a role, but the main cause is
generally due to weak cognitive skills and other cognitive impairments. Brain development can also be linked as a cause. Most people with dyscalculia have poor visual processing (visuospatial) and working memory skills. Moreover, 20 to 60% of those affected by dyscalculia have comorbid disorders such as dyslexia (~50%) or attention deficit disorder.
Difficulty working with and processing numbers and quantities such as connecting a number to the quantity it represents
Difficulty with ordering and comparing two or more amounts
Difficulty counting forwards and backwards
Trouble with subitizing (recognizing quantities without counting)
Trouble recalling basic math facts such as multiplication tables even after multiple repetition
Confusion over math symbols
Difficulty linking numbers and symbols to amounts and operations
Severe difficulty with basic math (adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing)
Reversing or transposing numbers
(89 becomes 98)
Difficulty with mental math and problem solving
Difficulty making sense of money and estimating quantities
Difficulty with telling time on an analog clock
Trouble telling time and direction
Problems grasping and remembering math
Trouble understanding positive vs negative values
Trouble with sequencing and recognizing patterns
Poor visual and spatial orientation
Difficulty immediately sorting out direction (right from left)
May have poor athletic coordination
Struggles with keeping score during games
Normal or accelerated language acquisition particularly if there is no other disorder
Dyscalculia can be hard to detect and students are rarely diagnosed at school. Many people with dyscalculia have normal or accelerated language acquisition, so parents simply sense that when it comes to math, something’s not connecting.
Dyscalculia appears under the Specific Learning Disorder (SLD) section of the DSM-5. According tot he DSM-5, an individual most meet these four criteria:
1. Exhibit at least one of six outlined symptoms related to difficulties with leaning and using academic skills which include mastering number sense and mathematical reasoning.
2. The affected academic skills are below what is expected for the individual's age which cause trouble with school, work, or daily life.
3. The learning difficulty began in school, even if problems only became acute in adulthood.
4. Other conditions and factors are ruled out including intellectual disabilities and neurological disorder, psychosocial adversity, and lack of instruction.
Diagnostic evaluations are carried out by school psychologists, and neuropsychologists.
Standardized tests and math ability tests when compared to same-age children
Cognitive skills testing
On-line testing combined with extensive parental documentation
Cognitive skills testing at BrainRx can pinpoint any weak mental skills that may be creating or contributing to the condition.
There is no cure or medication. Nevertheless, there are ways to improve and reduce symptoms or work around them.
Focusing on strengths: helps compensate for weak skills.
Accommodation: students and teachers adapt to, and work around, limitations. Some accommodations include: extra time, allowing use of calculators, adjusting difficulty of tasks, separating complicated problems into smaller steps, using visual aids to remind basic concepts.
Tutoring: a short-term fix that can help students catch up (such as after an extended absence due to illness, injury or a family move) or when instruction is not the best. Nevertheless, if used regularly (not only for catching up due to special circumstances), the need for tutoring will continue since it is not targeting the root cause.
Cognitive skills training: the only treatment that attacks the root of the problem by strengthening weak mental skills. Brain training can strengthen those skills to the point where the symptoms are eliminated, and math is easier, faster, and more fun.
Unlike tutoring, which focuses on specific academic subjects (like history), cognitive skills training treats the causes of learning struggles to help children, teens, and adults excel in school, sports, the workplace, and extracurricular activities (like sports, music, art, and dance).
IQRx Cognitive Training Programs Include:
Targeted Tutoring after training: Once the student has improved and efficient cognitive skills, IQRx can close the gap of knowledge content through targeted tutoring. These sessions will only be temporary until the student reaches the appropriate level of content.
Studying Techniques: IQRx can also provide studying skills necessary for success through individual sessions or group workshop of our Studying Habits and Memorization Techniques (TEM: Técnicas de Estudio y Memoria). This program should be completed once the student has improved learning skills through brain training in order to obtain the greatest benefit and ensure that the student can in fact apply everything learned. Once learning is maximized, IQRx can teach the student how to organize, plan, manage time, prepare for tests, take notes, prepare reviews, and different memorization techniques to support their studying process. TEM can be acquired through individualized one on one sessions, a group workshop, or a group workshop paired with individualized coaching.
Nutrition: You might also be able to reduce the frequency or severity of the symptoms by limiting the intake of foods containing non-organic dyes, which have been linked to hyperactivity. Controlling sugar consumption can also be helpful as well as supplementing with Omegas. Including plenty of varied fruits and vegetables as well as non-processed foods is key to brain health. Ensuring appropriate hydration is also essential for brain function and overall health. IQRx works with our Juice Plus partners in improving nutrition and a healthy lifestyle (mdevarona.juiceplus.com). IQRx counts with support of a licensed nutritionist for additional consultations when needed.
Exercise: Physical exercise is also effective to manage some symptoms and overall brain health. Exercise has been found to reduce brain cell loss, reduce risk of depression and anxiety, and help you sleep better. Exercising regularly increases blood flow therefore achieving better brain oxygenation. Children should exercise 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous exercise including bone and muscle training at least 3 days a week. Adults should exercise at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise (or 75 of vigorous exercise) and muscle strengthening twice a week.
Sleep Habits: Getting the proper amount of sleep is known to optimize mental functioning. While sleeping, the brain is regenerating neurons and consolidating memory. There are tables to offer guidance as to how much sleep is needed per age. In general, preschoolers (3 - 5 years old) require 10 - 13 hours a day including naps. Elementary students (6 - 12 years old) need 9 - 12 hours a day. Teenagers (13 - 18) need 8 - 10 hours a day and adults (> 18 years old) require at least 7 hours a day. There are natural ways to ensure proper sleep health such as using aromatherapy, essential oils, specific teas, white noise, ensuring no electronics are emitting light, removing mobile phones and other electronics from the room or not keeping them nearby, using melatonin.
Protecting the Brain: Wear helmets when riding bicycles, motorcycles, mopeds, horses, etc., and when playing contact sports like football or rugby. Protect the brain from chemical contaminants in the environment as well as in food or by avoiding drugs, cigarette, and alcohol consumption.
National Center for Learning Disabilities
Math Learning Disability Resource
Learning Disabilities Association of America
All Kinds of Minds
The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds
BrainRx training was beneficial to understand who I am, my areas of strength and weakness. It was good to work with others on the exercises. It was worth the commitment. I feel it has helped me focus on areas of weakness that I can continue to work on, to improve and have a more fulfilled life.
- Caroline S.