Dyscalculia: What is it? How to Treat it?


Dyscalculia, also known as “number dyslexia” or “math dyslexia”, is a learning disability that makes math challenging to process and understand. People with dyscalculia have trouble with math at many levels – they have a hard time doing basic math problems and more abstract math concepts.


Dyscalculia is present in about 11% of children with ADHD, and 3% to 6% of a school population. Unfortunately, children who have a hard time with math may continue to struggle with it as adults. The learning disorder complicates aspects of everyday life that involve number sense, such as telling time, grocery shopping, cooking, and more.


Dyscalculia Signs and Symptoms

People experiencing dyscalculia can have trouble with math in different ways. Problems with number sense may show up as early as preschool. For others, the challenges become clear as math gets more complex in school. While the signs may vary from person to person, and can look different at different ages, some of the common signs of dyscalculia include:

  • Difficulties with processing numbers and quantities
    • Connecting a number to the quantity it represents (the number 2 to two apples)
    • Counting (forwards and backwards)
    • Comparing two amounts
  • Trouble with subitizing (recognize quantities without counting)
  • Trouble recalling basic math facts, such as multiplication tables
  • Difficulty linking numbers and symbols to amounts
  • Trouble with mental math and problem-solving
  • Difficulty making sense of money and estimating quantities
  • Difficulty with telling time on an analog clock
  • Poor visual and spatial orientation
  • Difficulty immediately sorting out direction (right from left)
  • Troubles with recognizing patterns and sequencing numbers


Finger-counting is typically linked to dyscalculia, but it is not a direct indicator of the condition. Calculating errors alone are also not a sign of the learning disability. Variety, persistence, and frequency are key in determining if dyscalculia is present.


Dyscalculia Causes

Researchers are unsure of the exact causes of dyscalculia, but the two possible explanations are genes (as the disability tends to run in families), and brain development. When studying the differences between people with and without dyscalculia, the answer lies within how the brain is structured and functions in areas that are linked to learning skills. In addition, people with disturbances like brain injury and other cognitive impairments may also experience acquired dyscalculia, or acalculia. People with acalculia have difficulty performing simple math problems such as basic math operations (adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing), and even identifying the greater of two numbers.


Dyscalculia Treatment and Accommodations

Unfortunately, like other learning disabilities, dyscalculia has no cure and cannot be treated with medication. By the time most individuals are diagnosed, they have a shaky math foundation. To “treat” the disability, it is recommended to fill in as many learning gaps and to develop life skills. This is typically done through special instruction, accommodations, and other interventions. 


In 2012, Canada’s Supreme Court issued a ruling that schools should provide students with learning disabilities the opportunities to develop their full potential. The ruling also rejected a one-size-fits-all approach to disability. For employers, this precedent also applies.


Employers must make reasonable accommodations to support employees with learning disabilities and ensure they have the tools and support needed to perform their job. Some recommended accommodations include:

  • Use technology
  • Provide a safety net
  • Provide voice and video instructions
  • Eliminate tests
  • Create structured processes
  • Allow everyone to work at their own pace
  • Offer ongoing training and support


Are you looking for a math program to help your child overcome math learning challenges? MathProject is an accelerated K-12 math program, striving to empower the minds of tomorrow. Contact us today at 1-844-628-4243 to book a free assessment.


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What is dyscalculia? – https://www.understood.org/
What Is Dyscalculia? Math Learning Disability Overview – https://www.additudemag.com/
Acalculia – https://www.goodtherapy.org/
Learning disabilities in the workplace: how to support your employees – https://www.randstad.ca/