The term dyscalculia has been used for the first time in 1949 to describe the arithmetic disabilities, which were caused by brain damage. Currently the term is also used for children and adults, who have trouble with developing math skills: learning to count, remembering numbers or comprehending math theories. What is causing dyscalculia, how to recognize it in a child and what are the best methods of treating dyscalculia?
Causes of dyscalculia
The specific causes of dyscalculia are not yet known to researchers, but it is suspected that dyscalculia could be caused by the deficits in working memory – disturbed or reduced short term memory. That would explain why children with dyscalculia have problems with remembering numbers and math concepts. Other possible cause is the damage of a region of brain called the angular gyrus.Furthermore, scientists have determined that there is a possible correlation between dyscalculia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD – 15% of children, who have dyscalculia, were also diagnosed with ADHD), as well as a correlation between dyscalculia and Turner’s Syndrome (a name for a group of conditions occurring in females, among which monosomy X, the lack of sex chromosome, is most common).
What are the symptoms of dyscalculia?
The first signs of dyscalculia can be observed in small children, who have problems with learning to count, organize objects, remember numbers or identify the printed numbers. The earliest sign of dyscalculia is the lack of the ability to subitize – recognize how many objects are there without counting. Adults recognize 5 objects, infants – 3, children with dyscalculia recognize less objects or are not able to subitize at all. When children with dyscalculia go to school, other symptoms of the disorder can be identified by parents and teachers. These are: difficulties with comprehending math operations, solving math problems, measuring things or playing math games, which require a specific strategy.
Is there a way to treat dyscalculia?
Scientists have observed positive effects of some forms of educational therapy on children with dyscalculia. Small things, like repeating and practicing simple math operations and removal of any possible distractions also seem to help children with dyscalculia to better focus on their tasks. Estimating is a helpful technique, which can be used to ease the symptoms of dyscalculia. In general, children with dyscalculia have difficulties with understanding abstract math concepts, therefore the method used to teach math should be focused on concrete objects and representations of math concepts. One of the best math learning methods, which put emphasis on visualization and practical math tools, is called Singapore Math. The children, who are taught Singapore Math are able to progress from concrete to abstract with much ease and they are able to visualize even very complex math problems. This method could also be helpful for children with dyscalculia, although it is recommended that students with learning difficulties should be taught by a private tutor, who can address the specific problems of the child. If you cannot afford a private tutor, look for a school, which applies Singapore Math curriculum and allows children to study in small groups. A participation in after-class math program could also bring positive results for students with dyscalculia.
Marta Gromadzka is a writer and editor with a wide variety of experience, including writing for websites internationally and editing books on many different subjects and in a variety of formats.