# DYSCALCULIA (DIFFICULTY
WITH NUMBERS)
Dyscalculia was originally identified in case
studies of patients who suffered specific arithmetic disabilities
as a result of damage to specific regions of the brain. Recent research
suggests that dyscalculia can also occur developmentally, as a genetically-linked
learning disability which affects a person’s ability to understand,
remember, and/or manipulate numbers and/or number facts (e.g. the
multiplication tables). The term is often used to refer specifically
to the inability to perform arithmetic operations, but is defined
by some educational professionals and cognitive psychologists as
a more fundamental inability to conceptualize numbers as abstract
concepts of comparative quantities.
Dyscalculia is a lesser known disability, similar and potentially
related to dyslexia and dyspraxia. Dyscalculia occurs in people
across the whole IQ range, and sufferers often, but not always,
also have difficulties with time, measurement, and spatial reasoning.
Current estimates suggest it may affect about 5% of the population.
Although some researchers believe that dyscalculia
necessarily implies mathematical reasoning difficulties as well
as difficulties with arithmetic operations, there is evidence (especially
from brain damaged patients) that arithmetic (e.g. calculation and
number fact memory) and mathematical (abstract reasoning with numbers)
abilities can be dissociated. That is (some researchers argue) an
individual might suffer arithmetic difficulties (or dyscalculia),
with no impairment of, or even giftedness in, abstract mathematical
reasoning abilities.
Dyscalculia can be detected at a young age and measures can be taken
to ease the problems faced by younger students. The main problem
is understanding the way mathematics is taught to children. In the
way that dyslexia can be dealt with by using a slightly different
approach to teaching, so can dyscalculia. However, dyscalculia is
the lesser -known of these learning disorders and so is often not
recognized.
Another common manifestation of the condition emerges when the individual
is faced with equation type of problems which contain both integers
and letters (3A + 4C). It can be difficult for the person to differentiate
between the integers and the letters. Confusion such as reading
a ‘5’ for an ‘S’ or not being able to distinguish between a zero
‘0’ for the letter ‘O’ can keep algebra from being mastered. This
particular form of dyscalculia is often not diagnosed until middle
or high school is entered.
## Potential symptoms of Dyscalculia
• Frequent difficulties with numbers
• Confusing the signs: +, -, ÷ and x
• Inability to say which of two numbers is the larger
• Unusual reliance on counting fingers
• Difficulty with everyday tasks ie. checking change and reading
clocks
• Inability to comprehend financial planning or budgeting
• Difficulty with times-tables
• Difficulty with conceptualizing time and judging the passing of
time
• Problems differentiating between left and right
• Having a poor sense of direction
• Having difficulty estimating the distance of an object
• Inability to grasp mathematical concepts and rules
• Difficulty keeping score during games.
##
## Potential causes of Dyscalculia
Scientists have yet to understand the causes of
dyscalculia. They have been investigating in several domains and
the causes may well be a combination of factors. Neurologically,
Dyscalculia has been associated with lesions between the temporal
and parietal lobes of the cerebral cortex. Deficits in working memory
have been proposed as a major factor in mental addition problems.
Other causes may be short-term memory being disturbed or reduced,
and congenital or hereditary disorders.
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