Dyscalculia – The Lesser Known Developmental Disorder

You might be wondering what this vampire like word means, like so many other people. Dyscalculia is a learning disorder that can often be co-occurring with ADHD, dyslexia or dyspraxia. The DSM-5 defines Dyscalculia as a specific learning disorder, an impediment in mathematics, evidencing problems with:

  • Number sense
  • Memorisation of arithmetic facts
  • Accurate and fluent calculation
  • Accurate math reasoning

As traditionally, literacy has been the priority in terms of support and ensuring children could read and write before leaving school, dyslexia has been far more in the public eye both in terms of awareness, diagnosis and enabling support for people with the disorder. Dyscalculia in contrast has suffered and even specialists know less about it as there has been less research on it.

The prevalence is similar to dyslexia, approximately 6 to 6.5% of the population but with so many of these children flying under the radar, dyscalculia can affect us late into our adult years without us even knowing why we’re filled with dread when being asked to calculate the bill or helping out kids with their maths homework. Coupled with general maths anxiety that tends to be found in some cultures more than in others and sometimes subpar teaching methods, this makes dyscalculia harder to diagnose.

Some people have assumed this could explain why women undertake subjects which involve a high degree of maths less than men, but this is still due to societal expectations. No difference in prevalence between males and females has been found for dyscalculia and true maths abilities are similar between sexes.

If the diagnosis is made sooner like with any neurodevelopmental difference, the right learning support could come with it and make a lot more people feel stronger with numerical skills and understanding maths. The first barrier to break is getting that recognition and awareness of dyscalculia out there so people know what it is. This way, people can seek out resources and support for themselves, so that algebra feels more like a sweet dream instead of a bitter nightmare.

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