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Dyscalculia, also known as dyscalcula, is a little-known learning disability that affects the ability to do mathematics.

Learning disabilities

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) describes learning disabilities as "disorders that affect the ability to understand or use spoken or written language, do mathematical calculations, coordinate movements, or direct attention." They normally occur in very young children, but are usually not recognized until the child reaches school age and affect 8 to 10 percent of American children under 18 years of age.[1] Developmental dyscalculia is defined as being two standard deviations below the mean between mental age and math age. There is clear reason to believe there is an example of retardation of math development.[2] Dyscalculia is classified based on how it affects the individual.[3]


Symptoms can include spatial problems, difficulty aligning numbers, sequencing including left-to-right orientation, math concepts and word problems.

Typically, it involves inability to understand the meaning of numbers and their quantities. Students will have difficulty understanding basic operations of addition and subtraction and may not understand complex problems such as multiplication, division, and more abstract problems. Because they cannot understand these math concepts, they do not remember and therefore cannot build on them to master more complex problems.[4]

Individuals with suspected dyscaculia may have normal or accelerated language skills and the ability to retain “the printed word”.[5] In the academic setting, students can be good at science until their ability to do the needed math is no longer possible as they lack the needed “higher math skills.”[5] Individuals are typically good in the areas of science (until a level requiring higher mathematics skills is reached), geometry, and creative arts. But, inconsistent results when completing addition, subtraction, multiplication and division problems complicate the ability to make long-term financial plans due to difficulties with understanding credit planning and related financial transactions.[5] Dyscalculia is commonly associated with other related problems including Attention-Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder, regulation of emotion problems, tic disorders and bipolar disorders.[6]