How does dyscalculia affect my child?
By Fiona Meyer
he word dyscalculia has its origin from the Greek word dys (difficulty) and the Latin word (calculare) meaning counting badly. Dyscalculia was firstly termed back in 1949 but it was until Dr Kosc (1974) who discovered that dyscalculia was a learning disability (dyscalculia.org). He explained this term as a learner who has problems with arithmetic operations.
How do I know if my child is dyscalculic?
First of all it is important to understand that each child has a different way of learning and his/her development will be different from other children. According to the National Centre for learning disabilities state that in some cases learners that have already problems with processing language and/or with visual-spatial relationship might also face different challenges in Maths.
The above figure 1 is an example of the visual-spatial relationship where the learner is not able to align the numbers according to their value. (Mérat, 2010)
One method to identify if a child has a Math problem is that by a certain age some Math skills should already be learned. For example, in Early Childhood children should be able to have a sense of numbers, be able to sort objects by shape, colour and size. S/he should be able to know if an object is smaller/ bigger or taller/shorter. In addition, the child should be able to count and recognise numbers.
When children are in their Primary Years and may have difficulties solving maths problems where they need to use the basic arithmetic operations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc. Some learners struggle to remember Maths facts and make connections with the different symbols (Morin, n/d). The example below figure 2 shows how the child has added the numbers rather than multiply them.
Once children reach the teenage years and later adulthood the Maths problems will become more evident as learners are not able to pass from basic problems to more complex Maths applications. Also it may be difficult for learners with dyscalculia to recognize patterns and be able to identify the different parts of a Math problem. (National Centre for learning disabilities)
It is important to keep in mind that a learner goes through different learning phases and might have difficulties for a short period of time without necessarily been dyscalculic. Thus, when in doubt on should talk to a teacher or a professional who can evaluate the learner on his/her difficulties. It is important that you as a parent keep notes about the difficulties your child is experiencing.
The good news is that if one is able to diagnose dyscalculia in the child’s early childhood the better opportunities a teacher can offer a child. There are many techniques that will help him/her with Maths. Even when dyscalculia cannot disappear, there are learning strategies e.g. visual aids, tactile items, reference material that a teacher can give and make the learner’s life much easier.
National Centre for learning disabilities. Available at: www.ncld.or
Mérat, M. C. ; 2010 ‘Certains enfants sont-ils malades des maths?’ Science et Vie. n.1110 pgs. 70-72.
Morin, A. Understanding Dyscalculia n/d. Available at: www.understood.org.