How to Teach a Child That Has the Symptoms of Dyscalculia
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How to Teach a Child That Has the Symptoms of Dyscalculia

This article is written in response to a question asking how to teach and work with children with dyscalculia. The condition of dyscalculia is also known as a math (or maths) disability and is classified as a specific learning disability connected to those suffering from the condition to have substantial difficulty in the learning of or comprehension of understanding arithmetic skills.

The condition is linked to dyslexia in that its sufferers have an acute difficulty in understanding numbers and how to add, subtract or multiply even simple mathematical tasks. Difficulties with learning mathematics have been associated with children having a low IQ level, although sufferers of this condition generally are representative across the range of the IQ levels and usually they will have difficulties with aspects associated with time, measurement and reasoning on a spatial level. It is believed that a figure of between 3 and 6 percent of the population are affected by the condition.

Having dyscalculia does not mean that all aspects of mathematics are affected; some children having been diagnosed with the condition can easily complete problems of calculation and number facts while being unable to complete other tasks involving abstract equations or vice-versa. The condition was only diagnosed in the mid 20th century after studies of patients were conducted as being genetically linked as a learning disability through a failure to remember or understand tasks such as tables of multiplication.

The symptoms of the condition can be first diagnosed when a child is unable to calculate how many objects are in a small group without individually counting each individually. Infants can usually complete this task using three objects; it should grow as an individual’s counting ability increases up to five or more in adults. Children suffering from dyscalculia can recognise fewer objects in number correctly and take longer to identify the number than those of a similar age group. Other common denominators in identifying the condition can include an inability to read clocks having an analog display to the most extreme cases of being unable to identify which of two numbers is the highest in total.

As well as having problems with simple arithmetic other symptoms can include an inability to complete simple tasks of budgeting such as calculating the items in a shopping basket or balancing a short list of figures. The majority of sufferers will show difficulties with multiplication, addition, subtraction and division amongst simple tasks associated with mental arithmetic. Other symptoms could be with time, if a person is regularly very early or late as they can have a difficulty in calculating the concept of time.

Some children diagnosed with this can have problems with identifying their left and right although they may well be exceptionally gifted students of writing (a high proportion of sufferers have been found to be working in journalistic fields), having a poor estimation of distance while being particularly prone to being over sensitive to smell, light or noise are common denominators associated with the condition.

There have been a number of studies conducted on the best way to teach children diagnosed as suffering from this condition, the strategies for learning how to overcome the difficulties associated with studying mathematical problems include children using their fingers to count or using scratch paper to assist them in the counting process. The use of diagrams and drawings to assist in teaching techniques to enable the child to remember solutions to mathematical problems through an alternative to direct counting or subtracting.

The use of graph paper and coloured pencils can be used to help overcome the number blindness that this condition can cause to the children or adults that cannot overcome the numerical tasks that the majority of the population take for granted. Pictures can be drawn to be each associated with an individual problem within the counting process, the picture then reminds the student of the task to be completed.

Music and rhythm devices have been used to teach students maths facts and the process of repetition of music and words to a beat help the student to remember the steps to take to complete an arithmetic task. Computer programs exist to help individual students overcome these difficulties through the use of study, repeating a process until the practice becomes routine and through time learn to overcome the concepts required to count, subtract, divide or multiply the maths tasks they are set.

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Comments (3)

Thanks for writing this. I really wondered what dsycalcluia means? i see that it's quite similar to dyslexia, except the weakness is on mathematical ability.

An excellent article to raise the public's awareness of dyscalculia.

Very detailed research.  The article is also very well written and reader-friendly.  I learned  about dyscalculia and its symptons, simply by reading this article.  Thanks for the information