Is Your Child Having Trouble With Math? Here’s How To Spot Dyscalculia

    Is Your Child Having Trouble With Math?  Here’s How To Spot Dyscalculia

    Nowadays, kids are so quick to adapt and learn different things. But what if your child is struggling to learn and understand numbers? Could it be a learning disorder? This article shares how you can spot dyscalculia in children.

    Understanding Dyscalculia

    Dyscalculia refers to a specific learning disorder involving mathematics. Children may experience extreme difficulty in understanding numbers and how to use them in mathematical concepts.

    In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-V), dyscalculia is referred to as the specific learning disability with impairment in mathematics. According to a 2019 study, it affects 3-7% of all children, adolescents, and even adults. Their severe and persistent difficulty in arithmetic calculations causes significant effects in academic performances, at work, and even in day-to-day life. Moreover, it creates the risk of comorbid mental disorders.

    Children may excel in other subjects like English, but studying Math is challenging, puzzling, and burdensome for those with dyscalculia.

    Are All Math Difficulties Due to Dyscalculia?

    It is important to take note that not all math difficulties are because of dyscalculia. Other neurodevelopmental disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, visual, and auditory processing, can also influence a child’s ability to complete math problems. There are also other children with dyscalculia suffering from other learning abilities.


    Despite having the same incidence as dyslexia, dyscalculia is an understudied condition. In comparison, dyslexia is studied 14 times more. As a result, the exact causes of dyscalculia cannot be pinpointed and vary from person to person. However, there are a few possible causes.


    Researchers have discovered that a child with dyscalculia frequently has a sibling or a parent with similar math issues. Certain genes may predispose individuals to dyscalculia.

    Those with dyscalculia often have the following genetic disorders:

    • Turner’s syndrome
    • Fragile X syndrome
    • Velocardiofacial syndrome
    • Williams syndrome

    Brain Development

    Previous research used cutting-edge brain imaging technology to compare the brains of those with and without dyscalculia. Such studies have discovered differences in the following aspects:

    • Gray matter
    • Surface area
    • Thickness
    • Volume of brain regions associated with learning, memory, and cognitive abilities

    Moreover, alcohol exposure while inside the womb, premature birth, and even low birth weight may result in delayed brain development.

    Further, research suggests that brain injury in specific parts could result in a condition known as acquired dyscalculia.

    How To Spot Dyscalculia in Children

    Individuals with dyscalculia can struggle with math in a variety of ways. Signs can differ from one person to another and they can have different characteristics at different ages.

    Some people may experience difficulties with number sense as early as preschool. Meanwhile, the difficulties of others may become apparent as math education becomes more complex.

    Common symptoms include:

    • Difficulty in recognizing numbers
    • Delay in learning how to count
    • Difficulty connecting numerical symbols (3) with their corresponding word (three)
    • Struggling in identifying patterns and putting things in order
    • Losing track when counting
    • Need for visual aids (i.e., fingers) to help count

    And as math becomes a more important part of education, children with dyscalculia are more likely to have:

    • Significant difficulty learning basic math functions (i.e., addition, subtraction, time tables)
    • Inability to comprehend the concepts underlying word problems and other non-numerical math calculations
    • Trouble in estimating the duration to complete a task
    • Difficulty with math homework assignments and tests
    • Struggles with visual-spatial concepts (i.e., graphs and charts)

    Furthermore, the consequences of dyscalculia do not end when math classes end. Outside of school, the disorder can have a significant impact. Children who have dyscalculia may also find difficulty in the following aspects:

    • Remembering numbers (i.e., zip codes, phone numbers, game scores)
    • Money matters (i.e., providing change and tip, counting bills, as well as splitting it)
    • Estimating distances and the time it would take to travel from one place to another
    • Recalling directions
    • Reading clocks and telling time
    • Playing games that need consistent tracking of the score, number strategies, or merely counting

    Key Takeaways

    Dyscalculia is a neurodevelopmental disorder that concerns disability in learning math. Kids may struggle with math on a variety of levels, such as differentiating what is bigger from smaller, as well as basic problems and more abstract concepts.

    Have your child evaluated if you worry about the possibility of this condition. And always continue providing the guidance and assistance they need to learn new things.

    Learn more about School-age Children here.

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Dexter Macalintal, MD

    Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated May 02, 2022