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Dyscalculia: the difficulty when it comes to learning mathematics

Dyscalculia: the difficulty when it comes to learning mathematics

August 11, 2022

Oddly enough, there is evidence that human beings already we are born with certain abilities to think in mathematical terms . For example, newborns are already able to count units in small quantities, which is the prelude to add and subtract in the future.

However, just as we are especially prepared for mathematics, it is also true that in some cases this kind of specific mental processes may be affected by a disorder . This is what happens in cases where it is detected a type of difficulty called dyscalculia .

What is dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia is a kind of learning difficulty that specifically affects the mental operations related to mathematics and that can not be explained by the presence of mental retardation or by bad education.


To put it in some way, in the same way in which dyslexia affects reading, dyscalculia affects the handling of numbers and arithmetic in general, especially in relation to the simplest mathematical operations, such as adding and subtracting. That's why the dyscalculia it is also directly known as difficulties in learning mathematics (DAM) .

Symptoms and diagnosis

It is very common that dyscalculia is accompanied by other difficulties in learning, such as dyslexia or dysgraphia. Therefore, in the diagnostic manual DSM-V the dyscalculia is part of a wider diagnostic category known as Specific Learning Disorders . Within this one can specify what concrete difficulties are manifested in each case, such as problems in reading and mastery of mathematics, only in writing, etc.


Regarding the symptoms of dyscalculia, these are grouped into several categories, and can not be due to an injury or a malformation linked to a known disease:

Graphic transcription

In some cases, people with dyscalculia have It costs to memorize the symbol that represents each number , or draws them in an abnormal way, such as the other way around. In the same way, it is common that you will not be able to order groups of numbers writing them from left to right.

Failures in learning quantity notions

In the dyscalculia it is very normal that it is not understood that a number is formed by groups of units , and that the idea of ​​association number-object necessary to perform the basic mathematical operations is not created, which is why we try to count on the fingers (the position of the fingers makes the function of working memory).


Causes of dyscalculia

As with learning disorders in general, the exact cause of dyscalculia is not known, probably because there is not only one but several that act together and feed each other .

That is why, for the moment, it is assumed that dyscalculia has a multifactorial origin in which problems of maturation of certain parts of the brain are involved as well as more psychological aspects related to cognition and emotion management.

To understand this better, let's use an example. The brain of a girl with dyscalculia will probably directly affect areas of the brain responsible for working with numbers, but on top of that he will have got used to the idea that mathematics is not good at all , which will make you do less effort and, consequently, your results will be even worse.

It is important to point out that psychologists and psycho-pedagogues can intervene on the psychological aspects of dyscalculia, making the learning performance of people diagnosed improve or, at least, not get worse.

Prognosis and treatment

Currently, very little is known about how cases of dyscalculia that are not treated evolve, although in the medium term it is known that it is associated with psychological problems such as low self-esteem or the appearance of symptoms of depression.

However, dyscalculia can be treated from psychological and psychopedagogical work. For this it is necessary to carry out a process of cognitive restructuring related to the use of basic mathematics and self-concept.

In this way, the fundamental foundations of mathematics are taught without which no progress can be made, and at the same time ideas that hinder learning are rejected, such as the belief that numbers do not exist.


Understanding Dyscalculia: Math Learning Disability - Child Growth (August 2022).


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