Understanding Dyscalculia: Unlocking the Challenges of Math Learning

What exactly is dyscal­culia? Despite being an important learning disorder, many people remain unfam­iliar with it. Dysca­lculia affects indivi­duals’ ability to under­stand and work with numbers and mathem­atics. Unlike their peers who don’t have this disorder, indiv­iduals with dysca­lculia face specific cognitive chall­enges when it comes to math-r­elated concepts. In this post, we will explore the nature of dyscal­culia, discuss its symptoms across different age groups, examine crucial develo­pmental miles­tones for early math skills, and most import­antly, provide guidance for parents, educa­tors on how to support children with dysca­lculia in their journey to master the world of numbers. Join us on this infor­mative journey as we uncover the intri­cacies of dysca­lculia and discover effective strat­egies – including speech and language therapy – to help those affected thrive both inside and outside the class­room.

What is dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia is a learning disorder that affects a person’s ability to understand number-based information and mathematics. People who have dyscalculia struggle with numbers and math because their brains don’t process math-related concepts unlike the brains of people without this disorder.  

What are the symptoms of dyscalculia?

  • Young children in pre-K and kindergarten have trouble with:  
    • Counting upward. 
    • Connecting a number to that many of an object (for example, connecting the number 4 to that many marbles in front of them). 
    • Recognizing numbers and math symbols. 
    • Organizing numbers, such as largest to smallest or first to last. 
    • Recognizing and using number lines. 
    • Learning using money (such as coins or bills). 
  • School-age children have trouble with: 
    • Still counting on fingers with small numbers  
    • Identifying small quantities of items just by looking and instead counting each individually.  
    • Doing simple calculations from memory. 
    • Memorizing multiplication tables. 
    • Recognizing the same math problem when the order of the numbers or symbols changes (struggling to understand that 1+7=8 is the same as 8=7+1). 
    • Understanding word problems or more advanced symbols (such as > meaning “greater than” or < meaning “less than”). 
    • Organizing numbers by scale (10s, 100s, 1,000s) or decimal place (0.1, 0.01, 0.001). 
  • Teenagers and adults have problem with: 
    • Counting backward. 
    • Solving word problems. 
    • Breaking down problems into multiple steps to solve them. 
    • Measuring items. 
    • Measuring quantities (such as for cooking/baking recipes). 
    • Using money (coins and bills) to pay for items, exchanging bills for coins (and vice versa) and making change. 
    • Understanding and converting fractions. 

What is the development milestones of early math skills over time?

  • Infants: Distinguish between small groups of objects. 
  • Toddlers: Use numbers to label small quantities. 
  • 2-3 years old: Count objects by pointing at them. 
  • 3-4 years old: Quickly recognize objects without counting them. 
  • 4-5 years old: Begin to perform addition and subtraction. 

How to help my child develop math skills?

  • Turn math problems into play: Encourage your child to think and use their reasoning skills to find the answers. Parents can even create stories behind the math problems to encourage deeper involvement.  
  • Use math in real life situations: For example, when you are shopping with your child, you can discuss prices and quantities. This can improve your child’s mathematical reasoning. Encourage the child to use math concepts to describe any object they come across.  
  • Encourage mathematical communication: Focus should be placed on the language associated with numbers, symbols, and subjects in math problems. They should be encouraged to explain the solution to the problem, not just arrive at an answer.  
  • Play with dominoes: Use dominoes and dice to help your child better grasp simple math concepts. Parents should teach their child to recognize the number of dots in the domino or dice without counting.  
  • Do not use math worksheets: use play math games instead of using worksheets. Games are more interesting and engaging for kids and makes math problems more engaging as challenges to be overcome before progressing to the next level. If worksheets are used, parents should highlight important numbers, keywords, and instructions beforehand. Children can also use colored pencils.
  • Use manipulatives: Seeing and handling a tangible object can help a child understand the abstract principles of mathematics. Legos and blocks can also be used to teach addition and subtraction.  
  • Create visual models: Parents can use and move large objects in a room or draw pictures to better explain math problems and concepts.  

How to help a child with dyscalculia in the classroom?

  • Review the old concepts before introducing new ones. Encourage the child to talk through the problem to find a solution. Use also real-life situations to connect to the problem.  
  • Let the student draw to solve problems.  
  • Give the student a formula sheet and a graph paper to line up numbers. Cover up problems the child is not working on to make it easier to focus on one specific problem.  
  • Create separate worksheets or assignments for word and number problems.  
  • Give the child more space and time to solve the problems. Children can also use calculators.  

Empowering Minds with Talking Brains Center in Dubai

As we conclude our explo­ration of dyscal­culia, it is important to highlight that knowledge serves as the corne­rstone of empowe­rment. Dysca­lculia poses a challenge for indiv­iduals across all age groups, but with access to accurate infor­mation and effective strat­egies, parents and educators have the power to make a profound impact on those who face this learning disorder.
Moreover, speech therapy plays a crucial role in addressing the challenges that dyscalculia presents. At Talking Brains Center, our team of experienced speech therapists in Dubai works alongside educators and parents to develop personalized strategies that empower students to overcome their difficulties with math-related concepts. Through a combination of therapy, specialized interventions, and a supportive environment, we aim to equip individuals with dyscalculia with the tools they need to thrive academically and in everyday life.