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Dyscalculia basically means difficulty performing mathematical calculations, specifically, it means a learning disability which affects math. Like dyslexia, dyscalculia can be caused by a visual perceptual deficit and also along with dyslexia, its effects varies tremendously in each individual. Also like dyslexia were there is no single set of signs that characterizes all dyslexics, there is no one cause of dyscalculia. Some of the main symptoms are:

Spatial problems and difficulty aligning numbers into proper columns.

Number sequencing, including left/right orientation. They may read numbers out of sequence and sometimes do operations backwards.

Find mathematics concepts in word problems difficult to understand, confusing similar numbers (e.g., 7 and 9; 3 and 8), and have difficulty using a calculator.

Difficulty with the abstract concepts of time and direction, the inability to recall schedules, and unable to keep track of time.

If there is also a sensory defect, the mathematics deficiency is worse than you would expect with it.

Not accounted for by another psychological disorder such as Mental Retardation.

Associated Features:

It is common for students with dyscalculia to have normal or accelerated language acquisition, verbal, reading, writing, and good visual memory for the printed word.

They may be chronically late for appointments.

Poor long-term memory (retention & retrieval) of mathematical principles.

May be unable to mentally calculate change due from purchases which may result in a money or shopping phobia.

May have poor athletic coordination.

Differential Diagnosis:

Some disorders have similar symptoms. The clinician, therefore, in his diagnostic attempt, has to differentiate against the following disorders which need to be ruled out to establish a precise diagnosis.

Learned Helplessness in mathematics
Specific Phobia


Dyscalculia has several underlying causes. One of the most prominent is a weakness in visual processing therefore students with dyscalculia have a difficultly visualizing numbers and often mentally mix up the numbers, resulting in what appear to be "stupid mistakes."


Helping a student identify their strengths and weaknesses is the first step to giving assistance. Following identification, parents and teachers should work together to establish strategies that will help the student learn mathematics more effectively. Repeated reinforcement and specific practice of straightforward ideas can make understanding easier.

Counseling and Psychotherapy [ See Therapy Section ]:


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Page Updated
12th August 2003