Math Learning Difficulties May be Signs of Dyscalculia

dyslexia, learning disabilities
Counting on fingers well past grade-school: normal or a sign of something else?

Plenty of kids struggle with math. Some have a hard time grasping the concepts. Others just haven’t practiced enough. Still others have never had good enough instruction.

Then there’s 5 to 7 percent of the population whose brains are wired in such a way that; even adults are unable to count backwards from 10, or estimate the height of a room, or do anything but guess at which card in a deck is larger — the 5 or the 8. Unless they’re allowed to count the symbols.

It’s a little-known disorder researchers are calling dyscalculia and while it’s be explained in terms of dyslexia, it has nothing to do with flipping numbers or reading the out of order, according to an article over at MSNBC.

An article published in the most recent issue of Science explains what we do know about dyscalculia. Those with the disorder have a hard time with basic arithmetic and number concepts, but can sometimes excel in geometry, statistics and computer programming.

Dyscalculia, the researchers found, shows up at about the same rate as dyslexia, but not always in the same brains. Some dyscalculics are also dyslexic, but not necessarily so.

Like dyslexia, dyscalculia also appears to be genetic. Also, just like dyslexics can learn to read, those diagnosed with dyscalculia can learn to cope with math — they just need more time, and maybe some of skills they never had to intentionally acquire.

Some ways of identifying discalculia in a child is when they use their fingers for basic arithmetic far beyond the age that it typically becomes no longer necessary. Also, if they don’t develop a solid concept of time,  they are not able to approximate the duration of a certain event.

The paper in Science hopes there will be more attention paid to the neurological disorder and that there will be more research into the cause and also how to teach children and adults who have the disorder.

Photo: potatono via flickr
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