Dyscalculia: even the term sounds unfamiliar. Many people with dyscalculia may not know the condition exists. Instead, they might just think they have difficulty with math, or that anything with numbers is a struggle for them. Those familiar with dyslexia and dysgraphia may never have heard of dyscalculia.
It’s a vicious cycle. When faced with number problems you are gripped by anxiety or panic. Clearly, these feelings are no good so you go out of your way to avoid number problems as much as possible. This leads to your becoming less and less “good at maths” and the feelings of anxiety increase. Round and round you go until your maths anxiety has become a fact of life for you.
Dyscalculia Blog was founded to raise awareness of dyscalculia and other maths learning differences. The blog offers information and resources to empower dyscalculics, parents, teachers, students, therapists, and anyone struggling with numbers.
Hi dwdyscalculia! Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your Instagram?
Hi! My name is Isabelle, I’m 20 years old and I work as a qualified freelance makeup artist in New Zealand. I was diagnosed with severe Dyscalculia (Acalculia) when I was around 11 years old. My Dyscalculia is not genetic, as I was born premature (25 weeks) and suffered a brain bleed, thus causing me to have Dyscalculia as a result. I was able to get specific tutoring for my Dyscalculia, in order to help me learn numeracy skills (this aided in me passing NCEA – similar to GCSE’s) Since being diagnosed, I have been a strong advocate for Dyscalculics.
I created my Instagram ‘Dancing with Dyscalculia’ when I was around 15 years old (also known as dwdyscalculia), to help educate and raise awareness of Dyscalculia. What better way to educate and raise awareness, create a discussion about certain topics in this day in age, than social media? I create and post textual descriptions with snippets of information about Dyscalculia, in order to help raise awareness. I will sometimes post questions relating to Dyscalculia and answer them. I also often answer questions relating to Dyscalculia in comments as well.
Nobody really discusses educational associated anxiety. This is separate from my more general anxiety. My mother would ask or try to ask me how was school today and just did not want to talk about it. There were no school counsellors when I went to school. The secondary school I attended was academically very strict. We were there to open our books face the front of the class and shut up.
Ok so maybe it’s a slow grower, but since we started this blog there have been some leaps in research and overall there is a little higher general awareness of dyscalculia. We thought we would give you a little rundown of the latest research related to dyscalculia over the last years and perhaps this will help us see what the future may hold for dyscalculics the world over!
Back in 2018, some researchers at the University of Bonn were up to some, quite frankly mind-boggling stuff. So we are born with the ability to count and shortly after birth, babies can estimate the number of events and even perform simple calculations. But what exactly happens in the brain? And do we process abstract numbers differently from concrete quantities? To answer these questions the researchers measured the reaction of individual nerve cells to quantities and were able to demonstrate that certain nerve cells fired in response to very specific quantities. With the possibility to study the individual nerve cells of the brain and the discovery that counting is done on such a scale, the researchers hope that their results will contribute to a better understanding of dyscalculia.
To make sense of my thoughts as a potentially dyscalculic adult – who faces specific challenges with logical thinking – I probably need to start with some context.
At primary school, long division took me years to master, and there were always strange little things I just didn’t get or couldn’t do that others found easy (despite me apparently starting off well ahead in intellectual maturity and reading age)… I also always lost at Monopoly! Nevertheless, apart from a few such uncomfortable wobbles and blocks, I was able to keep up well into secondary school, even taking a couple of exams early.
It’s the 1980s. I am sitting at a desk in primary school. It’s senior infants. Although I was an easy-going kid, I would get frustrated that I could not do maths and got upset about that.
There were five of us at the desk. The teacher is handing out copy books. we were doing maths work. She asked us who had finished the and they all put up their hands, and then she asked who had not finished the work, and I put up my hand. The teacher said that they would wait until Mark is finished.
It took me some time to finish the work and the rest of the class sat there and waited until I was finished. We were all getting ready to go home, when one of my classmates turned to me and said, “I know you are not very good at maths Mark, but If I am late for football practice I won’t forgive you”. I said “I thought we were friends” and he replied, that “Just because we are classmates doesn’t mean that we are friends”.
A guest article from Michelle Steiner – first published and edited on The Mighty
My math learning disability presents a variety of challenges, but the most difficult one is not being able to read the face of a clock. Many people don’t understand that I can’t do this. I have had generous people gift me with beautiful antique analogue clocks. But I am unable to read what time it is and other than decoration, they serve little purpose for me.
I struggled with learning how to read a clock in elementary school. I can remember learning to tell time to the hour, but anything beyond that never made sense. I dreaded the worksheets that I had to tell what time it was, but I loved the colourful clock that you could move the handles.
Last week we spoke to Rose Lister, a primary school teacher who has struggled with numbers and was eventually diagnosed with dyscalculia at age 21. Rose tells us about the frustration of completing school education without a diagnosis – by telling her story, she hopes to bring more awareness to dyscalculia. Her story is very inspiring and we hope that it can show you that dyscalculia doesn’t have to limit you in what you want to achieve in life.
In this part of the interview, we discussed the increase of the understanding of dyscalculia, her experience as a primary school teacher, advice for those who have just been diagnosed and for parents with children struggling with numbers.
As a teacher, do you feel there has been an increase of understanding of dyscalculia?
Defiantly since I was at school (I finished school in 2008) but I do believe there is still more understanding and research to be done and also awareness to be had. Everyone has heard of conditions such as dyslexia but I still meet people who have never heard of dyscalculia.
What would you advise to someone who has just gotten their diagnosis?
Please believe in your own abilities and remind yourself that you are working as hard as you can and that perseverance is far more important than grades or exam results. If you are trying your best then that is all that matters and you should feel proud of yourself for showing such perseverance and ambition. You can do it! Also, never ever compare yourself to others. Focus on your skills and gifts and what you are capable of. Having a learning difficulty does not mean you are not clever or cannot do something. It just means you learn in a slightly different way and wouldn’t it be a boring world if we were all the same!
A new feature of the blog is a conversation series with people who are living with dyscalculia.
This week we spoke to Rose Lister, a primary school teacher who has struggled with numbers and was eventually diagnosed with dyscalculia at age 21. Rose tells us about the frustration of completing school education without a diagnosis – by telling her story, she hopes to bring more awareness to dyscalculia. Her story is very inspiring and we hope that it can show you that dyscalculia doesn’t have to limit you in what you want to achieve in life.
In this part of the interview, we discussed her path to diagnosis, her time at school and the challenges that overcame to become a primary school teacher. The second part of the interview, covering her experience as a primary teacher school and advice to parent, will be published the following week!
A guest article from Elisheva Seeman the creator of the Dyscalculator.
I first became aware of Dyscalculia when I noticed that my friend couldn’t read numbers. I couldn’t understand why she would always ask the people around her to tell her what number was written down, or why she would repeatedly ask what time someone said they were picking her up. When I realised how much Dyscalculia affected her on a daily basis, and how much it caused her to struggle in so many areas, I decided to find her an app or website to do the calculations for her. I figured that she was not the only one with this issue – surely someone must have developed a program to help with that.
I was wrong – all the apps I found when searching were geared towards teaching math, as opposed to offering tools to help people. So, I decided to create an app specifically to help her with numbers – and she loved it! She used it every day in different ways, and it really built up her confidence and helped her become less reliant on other people.
We recently got introduced to Mark Daly and his inspirational story of discovering his dyscalculia and returning to education as an adult. Mark had always struggled with numbers but growing up in 1980’s Ireland there was little to no awareness of dyscalculia or how to address it. Incredibly 30 years ago he discovered he had dyscalculia whilst on holiday in the USA and now he has been facing his challenges with this learning difference.