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Can't Calculate?... Let's Investigate... Dyscalculia

Never heard of it?

Many of us have heard of dyslexia, a learning disability that affects a child's ability to identify speech sounds and learn how they relate to letters and words (decoding).

A child with dyslexia often has the support of a special education teacher who can provide specially designed instruction (SDI) for reading deficits and a classroom teacher that can provide daily accommodations in reading instruction and learning in order to mitigate the severity of the disability.

But what about a child that has a disability in math?


Dyscalculia is a learning disability in math that affects a child's ability to make arithmetical calculations, understand the relationship between numbers, and/or understanding simple number concepts.

Dyscalculia and dyslexia are both considered language-based learning disabilities and affect areas of the brain that process language.

Quite often, dyscalculia-related problems arise from other disabilities such as visual or auditory processing or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Up to 60% of people who have ADHD also have a learning disability such as dyscalculia or dyslexia (Haberstroh and Körne, 2019).

For the purpose of this writing, let's stick with supports for dyscalculia.

  • How does it present?

  • How can teachers support math difficulties in the classroom with accommodations and adjusted instruction?


How does dyscalculia present in a child that struggles with math instruction?

  • Difficulty telling time

  • Confusion between left and right

  • Problems transferring information (i.e., 2+3=5, so 3+2=5)

  • Difficulty recalling number facts (i.e., multiplication facts, counting by 2s, 5s)

  • Lack of organization and confidence in ability

  • Struggles with sequencing and spatial awareness

This graphic captures the challenges in each subgroup:

How can teachers support math difficulties in the classroom with accommodations and adjusted instruction?

  • Allow extra time on tests and assignments.

  • Provide a quiet space to work.

  • Give them the option to record lectures or get notes from a peer or teacher.

  • Provide a calculator.

  • Provide multisensory instruction.

  • Use manipulatives, real objects and assistive technology tools in the classroom

  • Talk, write out or draw a problem.

  • Break a problem into "digestible bites".

  • Review often and focus on learning gaps.

This is a start to some of the questions you might have had. It might spurn some new questions and get you thinking differently about how you can support children with dyscalculia.

For support for inclusive communities in which all children thrive and achieve, go to: Inclusiveology

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