Many people know about dyslexia, the learning disorder that involves reading difficulty. However, less known is another learning disorder related to math: dyscalculia. This learning difficulty involves brain areas that handle math and number-related skills and understanding. “People who have dyscalculia often face mental health issues when they have to do math, such as anxiety, depression and other difficult feelings.” Although symptoms usually appear in early childhood, with a first exposure to math, many adults may unknowingly suffer from a form that appears later in life, known as acquired dyscalculia. In fact, according to the National Institute of Health, “3–7% of all children, adolescents, and adults suffer from dyscalculia, a persistent and enduring specific learning disability with “life-long impact on an individual’s job opportunities and future earning potential.”
Currently, dyscalculia can be diagnosed only through observation. Dyscalculia may be presumed “if the person in question displays below-average mathematical performance when seen in the context of relevant information from the individual history, test findings, clinical examination, and further psychosocial assessment.”
The primary treatment for dyscalculia appears to be education. Use various strategies for making math concepts from basic arithmetic to advanced algebra easier to understand and remember. Involving multiple senses may assist: hands-on teaching along with visuals. “Because dyscalculic students struggle to retain math-related information, it becomes hard to master new skills that build on previous lessons. Short, frequent review sessions — every day, if necessary — help keep information fresh and applicable to the next new task.” Programs based on incremental skill building and repetition aim to improve a student’s basic skills. As in most endeavors, the key to success is perseverance. Practice, practice, practice!