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Dyscalculia: An Impairment in Mathematics

Dyscalculia (dis*cal*cool*ee*ah)...what is it?


The term Dyscalculia is no longer used in the DSM-V, but I will use the term in this post. It is an impairment in mathematics which falls under the Specific Learning Disability category in IDEA.


None of our children have been diagnosed with Dyscalculia yet, but our oldest daughter has been evaluated for it and will be rechecked this year.


How did this show up on our radar? Here are some of the signs we have observed in her:

-counting on fingers -unable to memorize math facts -significant difficulty with math concepts -math anxiety -aversion to math -Difficulty immediately sorting out right from left -Inability to remember math skills long-term


Sure, there are many children who don't like math, but the aversion our daughter exhibits is on a much higher level than one would deem "typical." Truth is, math is incredibly difficult for her and the older she gets, the more she is aware how behind she is compared to her peers. The anxiety is palpable.


So why has she not been diagnosed yet? The answer is two-fold. While she was formally evaluated 2 years ago, her scores was borderline and the educational psychologist wanted to wait to see if age would help.


Secondly, we have learned she has visual motor integration challenges (more on this another day!). Her eye muscles fatigue quickly and don't work well together. This challenge with vision can present as a variety of learning disabilities and Attention Deficit Disorder. We would like to try vision therapy to see if it alleviates any of her struggles before her next formal assessment.


If your child struggles with math and you can't quite seem to put your finger on the problem, check out this video from ADDitude.


One area my daughter struggles with significantly is remembering the steps needed to solve problems. In this example, we created process cards to assist with her unit on fractions.



Process cards can be an accommodation. It is a simple visual reminder that helps a child organize the steps and be able to successfully solve a problem. These could be made for a number of mathematical skills that require multiple steps (for example, order of operations or long division).






The order of computation in math can be challenging to remember. The placement of numbers can be confusing. In this example, we used two different colored erasable pens to distinguish the computation of the numbers in the ones place and the tens place.

You may notice a few of the problems use only one color. That was my daughter’s choice. Those particular problems were not challenging for her, so she did not feel the need to use the two-color strategy.



One interesting point. There have been many times where she’ll be cruising through a few problems practicing the same skill and just like that, she is lost and does not remember the process.


Additionally, the educational psychologist discouraged a curriculum for her that cycled through skills. Everyday Math works on skills for a short period of time before moving on and eventually circling back.


While she was homeschooled, we would focus on one skill until she had a solid grip on it. For example, we spent two straight weeks on division. By the end she had it down quite well. We moved onto another skill and did a recheck on the division we had focused on the next week and she had forgotten how to do it.


Repetition is important. Apps that practice math skills can be a fun way to keep skills fresh in their memory. Graph paper can help with lining numbers up in the proper spot.

Manipulatives, process cards, and tools (like multiplication charts and calculators) can be helpful for children with Dyscalculia.


Identification of needs, accommodations, and encouraging support are imperative for success.

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