Dyscalculia (mathematics learning disorder)

There are two general areas of weakness that can contribute to problems with mathematics. Some children may demonstrate problems in just one of these general areas, while others may have difficulty in both areas.

  1. Weakness in mathematical reasoning ability
    This results in difficulty understanding math concepts. Children with problems in this area have difficulty understanding that numbers and symbols are abstract concepts that represent things like place, time, quantity, spatial relationships, positive/negative numbers, etc.
  2. Weakness in memory for arithmetic operations
    This can contribute to problems with mathematics. Children with problems in this area have difficulty remembering number facts (e.g., multiplication tables), sequences/steps used in math problems, or computing easy calculations in their head.


Math concepts

Children who are having difficulty understanding math concepts will benefit from an increase in the use of tangible objects and “real-life” examples when learning.

Numerical operations

For a child to become proficient at numerical operations requires several things, including rote memorization of math facts (e.g., counting/sequencing for young children, multiplication tables for older children), and memorization of math procedures (e.g., strategies or steps to complete a problem).

Compensatory strategies

Compensatory strategies do not “treat” the underlying problem like interventions do, but they may make it easier for a child who is experiencing dyscalculia to succeed in the classroom. Examples include:

  • Provide plenty of workspace for each problem on tests and assignment sheets.
  • Place steps for completing the problem at the top of the page or on an index card, and list steps vertically, from top to bottom.
  • Allow use of a number line.
  • Allow use of a math facts table or calculator.
  • Allow extra time for tests and assignments.
  • Consider reducing the number of problems; focus on quality vs. quantity if an assignment will be graded.

Information in this section was contributed, in part, by James Poysky, PhD. Read Dr. Poysky’s entire document, Learning and Behavior in Duchenne (download).