Numerical dyslexia is a term few parents ever Google search unless they have a child that struggles with math. Although the correct term is dyscalculia, having trouble calculating numbers is not as globally recognized as struggling with reading. You may even be wondering if a dyscalculia test exists!
There are several reasons why this might be, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that so many people dislike math in general. Because of this, few parents and even some teachers, do not realize that there is a difference between feeling like ‘I hate math’ and having a brain disorder that makes dealing with numbers extremely difficult.
If your child is struggling with mathematics, taking a dyscalculia test (math dyslexia test) may be the first step toward true diagnosis. If you already have a diagnosis, keep reading. There are many things you can do to help your child exceed academically despite his or her learning difficulties.
What is Dyscalculia ‘AKA’ Numerical Dyslexia?
Some people call dyscalculia ‘numerical dyslexia’ but these are actually two very different learning disorders. Around 5% of the population struggle with this disorder, but the number may be higher since so many go undiagnosed.
Your child might be struggling with dyscalculia if he or she:
- Feels numbers and math concepts are difficult to comprehend
- Has a weak working memory
- Says basic math operations are hard (adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing)
- Needs to count on fingers because counting in his or her head is too hard
- Can’t memorize basic math facts
- Finds graphs and charts tough to understand
- Avoids activities that involve counting like board games
- Can’t recognize patterns
- Struggles with calendar concepts such as days weeks, months, etc.
- Has a tough time with daily activities that involve math
Dyscalculia: A Bird’s Eye View
For many years, I thought that I suffered from dyscalculia. When I tell people that, they usually seemed puzzled. After all, I am a math teacher with an MBA. How could someone who has built her life around math be “bad at it”? The truth is I have always struggled with math and still do, to some extent.
Although I was gifted in other areas (I could read on a college level in elementary school), I had a hard time with numbers. Telling time, doing basic math in my head, and solving problems with more than one step was a nightmare.
Although I took advanced reading classes during junior high and high school, I was in remedial math classes. This was before ‘No Child Left Behind’, so being placed in what was labeled ‘slow class’ was common. It impacted my self-esteem.
Even in my first few years of college, I had difficulty passing math courses. The only classes I ever failed in my 15 years of pursuing higher education degrees were math classes. Being the stubborn person I am, this only strengthened my resolve to ‘be good at math.
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The truth is, it was a long road. There have been many tutors, disappointing test grades, lots of studying, and tears over the years. However, I’ve learned to work with my ‘math shortcomings’ and have helped many students do the same.
Here is what I’ve learned about dealing with “numerical dyslexia” that I’d like to share
Thriving with Dyscalculia
Push for a Diagnosis
When I was growing up, dyscalculia was not something that was commonly diagnosed. At least not in my area. Thankfully, both parents and educators are becoming more aware of this disorder.
There is no specific test for numerical dyslexia, although many people assume a specific dyscalculia test exists. However, having your child take a Dyscalculia test (screener) is one of the first steps toward academic progress. You should also consult with your child’s teacher and gather any paperwork to support your suspicions. Then take the screener results to your child’s doctor. Push to see a specialist if you do not get the answers you seek during your first attempt.
Dyscalculia can be extremely frustrating for both parents and children. For this reason, it is so important to stay supportive. Dyscalculia can cause serious emotional issues. Not being able to do what is natural and normal for others can be extremely embarrassing.
Many parents and educators mistakenly believe that children with dyscalculia just aren’t trying hard enough. But science has proven that those who think they have ‘numerical dyslexia’ actually have areas of the brain that show abnormalities. Although this may be difficult to accept, doing so is the first step to taking control.
Boost Their Skills
If a dyscalculia test shows your child has this disorder or some other kind of learning disability, don’t give up hope! Implementing these strategies can help:
- Let them use their fingers or scratch paper without shame
- Introduce math manipulatives since tangible objects make counting easier
- Use rhythm and music to build on concepts
- Allow same age peers to help
- Teach them to draw pictures when solving problems
- Schedule daily math computer time for skill practice with activities found in ArgoPrep’s K-8 math program
One final suggestion is to ask your child’s school administrator about classroom accommodations that could help. Having a working teacher-parent partnership is one of the best ways to support your child in overall school success.