Queen's Policy Engagement

Dyscalculia: ‘maths dyslexia’ or why so many children struggle with numbers

Dr Kinga Morsanyi calls for a greater awareness of mathematical learning difficulties in children in order to improve the prospects of dyscalculic learners.

Dyscalculia: ‘maths dyslexia’ or why so many children struggle with numbers

You’ve probably heard of dyslexia, but have you heard of dyscalculia before? Maybe not, given that children with dyscalculia – or mathematical learning difficulties – are less likely to be diagnosed.

In fact, research shows that children with dyslexia are more than a hundred times more likely to receive a diagnosis and educational support than children with dyscalculia. This is despite the fact that dyslexia and dyscalculia are expected to be equally common.

This is worrying, given that research shows low numeracy might affect people’s life chances more negatively than low literacy. Indeed, there is a strong link between numeracy and educational success, income, mental and physical health and even chances of arrest and incarceration.


What is dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia is defined as a condition that involves long-term, severe difficulties with mathematics – which cause significant problems with academic or occupational performance, or with daily activities.

Some typical signs of dyscalculia that parents might notice are using finger counting – even for simple arithmetic – struggling to retrieve number facts from memory (such as times tables), and struggling to learn new procedures.

Dyscalculic children might also have trouble using calendars and clocks, they might struggle with recalling the order of past events, and with following sequential instructions.

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Article first appeared in The Conversation.

The featured image appears courtesy of a Creative Commons license. 

Dr Kinga Morsanyi
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Dr Kinga Morsanyi is a Lecturer in the School of Psychology at Queen's University Belfast. She has a background in the development of reasoning skills in typical development and in special populations (in autism, and in developmental dyscalculia).

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