As with dyslexia, this term dyscalculia is not commonly used in public school systems but is rather referred to as a Specific Learning Disability (SLD) in math. The symptoms vary from person to person, may be evident in preschool or not show up until complex math courses emerge, and will look different at different stages of life. Dyscalculia is not the same as math anxiety, but the disorder can produce math anxiety.

Definition

Dyscalculia is a math learning disability that makes it difficult to do math or math related tasks, is not a result of a lack of opportunity to learn, and is found in children with average to above average intellect. Children with dyscalculia have trouble with number sense, memorization of math facts, accurate and fluent calculation, and accurate math reasoning.

Characteristics Checklist

Elementary School
  • Has trouble learning and recalling basic math facts
  • Still uses fingers to count instead of using more advanced strategies (like mental math)
  • Confuses math signs (-, +, x, >, <)
  • Confuses concepts of greater than and less than
  • Has trouble with place value, often putting numbers in the wrong column
  • Difficulty telling time on an analog clock
  • Difficulty distinguishing right from left
Middle School
  • Struggles with math concepts like commutativity (3 + 5 is the same as 5 + 3) and inversion (being able to solve 3 + 26 ‒ 26 without calculating
  • Struggles with word problems, math reasoning, understanding math language
  • Has a hard time figuring out the total cost of things and keeping track of money (like on a lunch account)
  • Avoids situations that require understanding numbers like games that involve math
High School
  • Struggles to read charts and graphs
  • Has trouble applying math concepts to money, like making exact change and figuring out a tip
  • Has trouble measuring things like ingredients in a recipe and easily forgets conversions
  • Difficulty with activities that require understanding speed, distance, and directions (may get lost)
  • Has trouble finding different approaches to the same math problem, like adding the length and width of a rectangle and doubling the answer to solve for the perimeter (rather than adding all the sides)
Sources:
Understood for All, Children with Dyscalculia
Dyscalculia.org  provides a online checklist to determine if your child has characteristics of dyscalculia. Checklist of Traits
TIP: Coping with Dyscalculia post Childhood
Although people with dyscalculia possess average to above average intelligence, have adequate math skills, and accurately use functional math daily, they tend to be inconsistent with their performances. If they are rushed, stressed, or exceptionally tired, then the following everyday tasks become overwhelming.
  • Remembering common numbers (Social Security, phone, license, address & zip code)
  • Doing basic math (figuring tips, making change, figuring hourly wages to pay for a service)
  • Computing distances when traveling, especially crossing over time zones; may over/underestimate travel times
The keys to living with dyscalculia are to:
  1. slow down, plan ahead to avoid rushing
  2. manage stress with a calming environment, headset with music, or other personally calming strategies
  3. compensate by using a phone calculator, carrying a tip card that has all tips prefigured
  4. use a GPS
  5. keep all critical numbers recorded somewhere with easy access
Strategies
1. Move from concrete to abstract.
For students who struggle to learn math concepts, they need to begin with concrete objects/manipulatives so they can ‘see’ the meaning behind the process. This means working all math problems with objects that can be added, subtracted, and moved around. As they begin to comprehend the meaning, they move to semi-abstract by using manipulatives to work out problems with the aid of a chalkboard, white board, or worksheet with the problems depicted in pictures.  The final stage is the abstract stage as math is worked out with traditional paper and pencil. This is only after they completely understand the necessary processes and their meaning.
2. Use Multisensory instruction.
3. Work with math manipulatives such as Cuisenaire Rods, Linkin Blocks, Base Ten blocks, Algebra Tiles, sorting trays, any object to count, DecaDots, large write-on clocks, fraction tiles, and anything else you can find around the home to make math meaningful and accommodate for the math disability.
4. Use Graph paper to keep math problems straight, aligning columns and rows.
5. Teach money skills with real money and practice in real stores, restaurants, and other venues.
6. Teach directions using maps, GPS, and compass. Always point out positional descriptors and require your child to talk about and demonstrate them: left/right, before/after, advance/retreat, north/south, former/latter

7. Teach the language of time. Deliberately talk about the language of time by pointing out vocabulary: second, minute, hour, day, week, weekly, monthly, yearly, annual, annually, decade, century, four score (set of 20 years), fortnight (14 days/2 weeks), century, centuries, first century, and centennial.

8. Teach concepts of time through calculations, planning, planners, calendars, task analysis, & estimation. Make clocks, show times with arms, use visual timers, and clocks, have your child wear a watch (not digital), and practice computing time.

9. Use assistive technology when applicable to support your child’s learning.

10. Implement occupational therapy strategies.

Resources
Curriculum (tried and true)