What is Dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia is a condition affecting a person’s numeracy skills. Individuals with this condition are likely to have difficulty with activities involving numbers, including addition and multiplication. An individual can be given help and support to improve their symptoms, but Dyscalculia is a condition which does not have a cure.

What are the symptoms of Dyscalculia?

Numeracy and mathematics aren’t always popular topics amongst young people. But someone with symptoms of Dyscalculia is likely to find numeracy more difficult than their peers might. There are a few signs to look out for with young children, such as:

  • A struggle to learn their times tables, or to grasp multiplication, addition and other numerical tasks. An individual may seem anxious when faced with these activities.
  • A child’s ability to perform mental arithmetic may develop much slower than their peers. An individual may still be using their fingers to count, or counting verbally, while their classmates are performing sums in their mind.
  • There may be some difficulty learning to specify mathematical signs or symbols. Children may start to get confused or mixed up about the difference between the plus, minus and multiplication symbols.
  • A child may struggle to assess which team has scored more goals or gained more points during a sports match.

With young people who have reached adolescence, or even for adults, symptoms can be different:

  • Understanding the meaning of charts or graphs, during classwork or in the office, can be a struggle for an individual with Dyscalculia.
  • Cookery lessons at school, or preparing meals in the evening, can be a struggle for an individual – ensuring that the right amount of each ingredient has been measured out can be difficult.
  • An individual can struggle to manage their own personal finances, or to prepare change if they are buying an item in a shop.
  • Preparing to perform some mathematical tasks can leave a person feeling very anxious or stressed.
  • An individual may feel nervous about being asked to use their numeracy skills quickly, or at a high speed.

Dyscalculia can be considered a numerical equivalent of Dyslexia, in the sense that the symptoms are very similar, but with Dyscalculia, the symptoms are focused on numbers rather than words. Dyscalculia is a different condition to Dyslexia and an individual with Dyslexia is not guaranteed to also be diagnosed with Dyscalculia.

what are the symptoms of dyscalculia

Causes of Dyscalculia

It is common that people with Dyscalculia are born with the condition. Although it is possible that if a parent also has the condition, Dyscalculia could have been passed on genetically. Acquired Dyscalculia is when the condition develops when an individual is an adult – and in this scenario, the cause is likely to have been due to a brain injury.

Dyscalculia Diagnosis

A child’s parents may be informed if a teacher believes that a child is struggling with numerical tasks, or that their mathematical skills are not developing at the usual rate. Once a discussion has been entered into, a Psychologist or another healthcare provider may be asked to assess the individual for Dyscalculia.

During an assessment for Dyscalculia, a child may be asked to perform a few numerical tests to see what level they are working at. These tests can include simple multiplication, or a child may be asked to discuss how they worked out an answer to a mathematical problem.

If it is suspected that an adult may have Dyscalculia, an individual can be referred for a session with a Psychologist or a Neuropsychologist, following a discussion with their doctor. There is also the option for an online screening test.

dyscalculia diagnosis

Why is a diagnosis critical?

The earlier an individual can gain access to any support that is available, the more benefit the support is likely to have towards academic results and their overall life. Extra support can also help an individual to improve their numerical skills and to reduce any negative emotions which may have resulted as a consequence of having a slower developmental rate than some of their peers. For example, a child may feel angry or frustrated if their friends or peers seem to be performing at a higher level, or gaining more praise and/or rewards from the teachers.

For adults, higher positions within their company, or a company they apply to work for, will become a more feasible target following successful improvement of their mathematical ability. The prospect of promotions, higher income and better career prospects may provide the motivation that an individual needs to take evening classes or enroll on college courses to improve numeracy skills.

Dyscalculia treatment

Medication isn’t usually recommended for Dyscalculia. Although, if an individual has other symptoms which aren’t necessarily associated with Dyscalculia, such as inattentiveness or an inability to focus, then there is a possibility that medication can help to improve these symptoms. Improving other symptoms will be likely to help the overall Dyscalculia symptoms. For example, if medication allows an individual to concentrate for longer, they may find it easier to learn numerical tasks.

There aren’t always recommended paths for an individual who has been diagnosed with Dyscalculia. But it is possible for extra support to be arranged at school, and an individual’s teachers can liaise with a Psychologist or healthcare assistant to arrange any relevant help that a child requires.

dyscalculia treatment

There are also ways to discover the way that a child prefers to learn, which can include a technique called Multisensory instruction. This technique usually involves little games that work to involve some of the individual’s senses. There will be games involving sight, touch and hearing to allow the individual to learn about their preferred method of absorbing information.

Adults can find treatment a little different in comparison to children, as there likely to be fewer resources available, unless the individual chooses to enroll on a college or university course. Private tutoring will also be an option as well.


Dyscalculia is defined as being a specific learning difficulty, which can affect the development of an individual’s mathematical skills. Dyscalculia is a condition which will last a lifetime, but there are various techniques and methods to manage the symptoms. It is perfectly possible for an individual to live a successful life with symptoms of Dyscalculia.


No, it isn’t. A learning disability is defined as being a condition which affects an individual’s intelligence, whereas a specific learning difficulty is where learning tends to be difficult, but a person’s intelligence will usually be normal, or average, in comparison to their peers. Dyscalculia is classed as being a specific learning difficulty.

Learning difficulties are lifelong conditions. But whilst this may be a demoralising prospect for someone who suspects that they may have symptoms of a learning difficulty, or who has recently been diagnosed, there are ways of managing the symptoms to ensure that the individual has the best chance of success in life. The earlier that a diagnosis is gained, the more chance that an individual can develop their skills in the affected area a bit easier.

Dyscalculia and ADHD are not connected conditions, but they are commonly diagnosed for the same individual – this will likely be at different stages of life, but if symptoms for both sets of conditions are noticed then there may be a quicker route to being diagnosed for both conditions.

ADHD happens to be frequently diagnosed alongside learning difficulties, and the symptoms can affect other conditions. For example, ADHD tends to affect the attention span of an individual, and this may prove to make numeracy even more difficult for someone with Dyscalculia.

Driving ability is not usually one of the main symptoms of Dyscalculia, but as Dyscalculia is a condition which is focused around numbers and numeracy, an individual may find it more difficult to follow directions or to utilise a satellite navigation system.

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