Signs & Symptoms of Dyscalculia

Dyscalculia receives less press than does dyslexia. Parents and teachers may not even be aware that dyscalculia exists, much less recognize what could be signs of the learning difference. We’ve put together a list of things to watch out for if you think your child may have a learning disability in math.

Some of these signs are more established through research while others have been reported by teachers, parents, or dyscalculics themselves.

Symptoms of dyscalculia

  • Slowness in learning to count
  • Difficulty in comparing quantities (larger vs. smaller)
  • Difficulty in recognizing quantities, even small numbers of objects
  • Difficulty in understanding “math words” such as “greater” or “less than”
  • Lagging behind peers in learning simple arithmetic such as easy addition
  • Reliance on slow methods of performing math, such as counting on fingers for addition or adding up numbers for multiplication
  • Difficulty in telling time from an analog clock
  • Difficulty in keeping track of time
  • Inability to count out change or estimate costs
  • Anxiety when faced with number-related tasks; math anxiety

The presence of one or more of these signs does not necessarily add up to a dyscalculia diagnosis.

Educate yourself on the signs of dyscalculia
Educate yourself on the signs of dyscalculia

If you think your child or student may have a learning disability then an evaluation from a professional is a key step to getting a child the support that he or she needs.

But with this list perhaps educators and parents can become more aware of dyscalculia and how it affects children at home and in the classroom.

More information is available on sites such as Understood.org, the Learning Disabilities Association of America, and the British Dyslexia Association.

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4 thoughts on “Signs & Symptoms of Dyscalculia

  • December 8, 2016 at 7:25 pm
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    Thanks for bringing to my attention that needing to count with fingers can be a sign of dyscalculia. My son has been having some issues with counting, and he also has trouble reading an analog clock. I’m worried about his academic success, so I’ll definitely talk to a professional to see if it’s dyscalculia and to see what can be done to help him.

    Reply
  • December 16, 2016 at 2:11 pm
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    You are welcome! Just to complete the picture: counting with fingers as such is not a problem. It’s a natural and probably even necessary step in developing math skills. There is research indicating that the better children count with their fingers at pre-school age, the better they will perform in mathematics in high school and college (the more exact scientific formulation is that finger counting is a good “predictor” for how well children will perform maths many years later). But they shouldn’t count with fingers in 3rd grade anymore.

    What is very important, though, is that counting isn’t just saying a sequence of words, without understanding or with limited understanding that these words mean quantities and that counting up is like adding one item at a time. Children without dyscalculia understand that soon, and as an adult without dyscalculia, you might hardly be able to imagine that somebody might not link number words to amounts. But for children with dyscalculia, the missing links between quantities, number words, Arabic numerals and ordinal relationship of numbers is one very central problem.

    Some times, children with dyscalculia memorize “one”, “two”, “three”, … just like a nursery rhyme such as “Rich Man”, “Poor Man”, “Beggar Man”, “Thief”,… Have you ever tried to add “Rich Man” and “Beggar Man”? Was the result “Thief”? And why should it be “Thief”? 🙂 That’s the kind of problems that children encounter with addition of “one” and “three” if they have no understanding that this means adding quantities.

    So maybe when observing your son while counting, try to see if he understands the connection between number words and quantities.

    Reply
  • June 28, 2017 at 10:37 pm
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    i need help with maths of all parts it is a different language to me yes i am british,
    male 57 yrs old and am sick of not understanding everything every day, it is true we need maths every day, some of the examples given are spot on,
    most of the thing on line are for children but not much for adults, so thats why i am asking,

    regards mark,

    Reply
    • July 3, 2017 at 10:55 am
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      Hi Mark,

      You are completely right, there is more information out there about how to help children. This is because of the belief that discovering the condition early in a persons life whilst there brain is at its most flexible they can learn to overcome the difficulties of dyscalculia. However a recent study has shown that the human brain remains flexible much longer into adult life, so we can expect to tackle dyscalculia in adulthood and expect great results. So in response to your question, I will see what I can find on the subject and make more posts for adults with dyscalculia.

      For now please read our post Helping Adults with Mathematical Learning Difficulties

      All the best,
      James

      Reply

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