What is Dyscalculia?

Pronounced DIS-KAL-KOOL-EE-AH, ‘dyscalculia’ comes from Greek and Latin and means ‘counting badly’.

Dyscalculia, a specific learning disability that hampers one’s ability to comprehend and work with numbers, isn’t limited to childhood challenges. It can persist into adulthood, significantly affecting various aspects of life and work.

Dyscalculia is a specific learning disorder that affects 5-6% of the population. This group of individuals  process numbers differently from their typically developing peers and use a wide range of approaches: inefficient and laborious methods, rely on using their fingers whilst counting, unable to tell which of two numbers is larger, have difficulty estimating, and use uneconomical methods to solve problems. No two adults with developmental dyscalculia present the same profile of strengths and needs.

Adult Dyscalculia

Adults with developmental dyscalculia show difficulties in the acquisition of core foundational number skills.

It is, therefore, important to identify their Specific areas of Learning Difficulties (SpLD) so that a targeted and intentional intervention can be offered.

The developmental building blocks of acquiring, recalling and applying numbers in their symbolic and non-symbolic forms requires the efficient coordination of numerous cognitive and sensory pathways involved in supporting number development: working memory, auditory and visual processing, attention and visuospatial perception.

Studies show that Developmental Dyscalculia is often encountered as a co-occurring difficulty in a variety of medical conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), developmental language disorders, dyslexia, epilepsy, and Fragile X syndrome,  Williams Syndrome, Autism, Turners Syndrome, Duchenne Muscular dystrophy, DiGeorge syndrome and foetal alcohol syndrome

Adults with Dyscalculia

Adults grappling with dyscalculia may encounter some or more of the  following difficulties:

  • Basic arithmetic struggles: Performing basic calculations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division becomes arduous. Mental maths and quantity estimation pose significant challenges.
  • Impaired number sense: Conceptualizing numbers and grasping their magnitude becomes problematic. Comparing numbers, recognizing patterns, and establishing relationships between them become hurdles.
  • Time and measurement obstacles: Comprehending and estimating time, reading analogue clocks, and understanding units of measurement (e.g., kilometres, centimetres, pounds) become daunting tasks.
  • Financial management challenges: Effectively managing finances becomes an uphill battle. Budgeting, comprehending interest rates, calculating discounts or percentages, and organizing financial information prove difficult.
  • Spatial and navigational difficulties: Dyscalculia affects spatial awareness and sense of direction. Tasks involving spatial relationships, such as reading maps, following directions, or estimating distances, become challenging.
  • Organization and sequencing issues: Organizing and sequencing information becomes a struggle. Following multi-step procedures, understanding schedules, and recalling mathematical formulas pose difficulties.
  • Anxiety and low self-esteem: Mathematical tasks trigger anxiety and frustration in adults with dyscalculia. This can lead to negative attitudes towards maths and feelings of embarrassment or inadequacy due to their challenges.

It’s crucial to note that dyscalculia is a specific learning disability and is not a reflection of intelligence. With the right support, assessment, accommodations, and targeted instruction, adults with dyscalculia can develop strategies to manage their difficulties and enhance their mathematical skills.

If you suspect or know someone struggling with dyscalculia, seeking a dyscalculia assessment and guidance from a qualified assessor, is highly recommended.

Multiply screener focus is on supporting adults with developmental dyscalculia using its researched and validated developmental  NumberSenseMMR™ framework.

A label of developmental or maths developmental delays serves no purpose if the individual cannot be supported. Multiply screener offers recommendations to re-position the learning of numbers and maths.

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What are the symptoms of Dyscalculia

This list is by no means exhaustive and indicates that there is an underlying cause to the disturbance in the pupil’s number sense development:

  • High levels of maths anxiety
  • Cannot subitise (the ability to recognise groups of 3/4 without formal mathematical processing
  • Cannot count reliably
  • Does not associate number words with their symbols. For example, they do not associate the word ‘eight’ with the symbol ‘8’
  • Reliance on ‘counting-on’ strategies: using fingers rather than mental arithmetic methods
  • Writing number digits the wrong way round consistently
  • Difficulty with estimating
  • Difficulty placing numbers on a number line. For example, cannot identify that the number 8 should go between 5 and 10 on a number line
  • Inability to tell which of two numbers is larger
  • Cant apply applying + and – signs
  • Difficulty working with a pattern
  • Confusing signs +, -, x, ÷
  • Confusing or not understanding mathematical vocabulary
  • Difficulty with times tables and mental arithmetic
  • Difficulty with everyday tasks such as checking change
  • Difficulty with reading clocks

Some examples of difficulties in professions that require the use of numbers and maths

Hairdressing and Dyscalculia

Dyscalculia, a specific learning disability that impacts numerical comprehension, can present unique obstacles for hairdressers in their daily work. While hairstyling primarily focuses on creativity and aesthetics, there are certain numerical aspects that can pose difficulties for individuals with dyscalculia. Hairdressers with dyscalculia may encounter challenges in the following areas:

  • Mixing Hair Color: Dyscalculia can make it difficult for hairdressers to accurately measure and mix hair color formulas. Achieving the desired shade and maintaining consistency across multiple applications can be challenging.
  • Timing and Processing: Accurate timing is crucial when applying hair color, bleach, or chemical treatments. Dyscalculia may make it difficult for hairdressers to estimate and track the required processing time, potentially leading to over- or under-processing.
  • Cutting and Styling Measurements: Dyscalculia can impact a hairdresser’s ability to accurately measure and execute precise cuts or styles. Estimating lengths, angles, and proportions may be challenging, affecting the overall symmetry and balance of the hairstyle.
  • Pricing Services: Dyscalculia may pose challenges when calculating prices, discounts, or additional charges for salon services. Accurate charging and handling financial transactions can become problematic for hairdressers with dyscalculia.
  • Appointment Scheduling: Managing a busy salon schedule requires time management and the ability to accurately schedule appointments. Dyscalculia can make it difficult for hairdressers to estimate time intervals or calculate available time slots, potentially causing scheduling conflicts.
  • Inventory Management: Keeping track of salon supplies, such as hair products, tools, and equipment, requires accurate inventory management. Dyscalculia can make it challenging for hairdressers to calculate stock levels, place orders, and maintain appropriate inventory levels.
  • Financial Planning: Dyscalculia can affect a hairdresser’s ability to manage personal finances effectively, such as budgeting, tracking income and expenses, and calculating taxes or deductions.

Nursing and Dyscalculia

Dyscalculia, a specific learning disability that affects numerical comprehension, can pose unique challenges for nurses in their daily work. Nurses rely on accurate calculations, measurements, and numerical information in various aspects of patient care. However, individuals with dyscalculia may encounter difficulties in the following areas:

  • Medication Dosages: Nurses with dyscalculia may find it challenging to calculate and administer medication dosages accurately. This can lead to errors in medication administration, compromising patient safety.
  • IV Fluids and Infusion Rates: Dyscalculia can affect a nurse’s ability to calculate and adjust IV fluid rates, resulting in incorrect flow rates and potential complications for patients.
  • Patient Vital Signs: Accurately interpreting and analyzing numerical data, such as blood pressure readings, heart rate, or oxygen saturation levels, may be challenging for nurses with dyscalculia. This can impact their ability to identify trends or changes in a patient’s condition.
  • Monitoring Fluid Balance: Nurses need to track input and output volumes accurately to monitor a patient’s fluid balance. Dyscalculia may make it challenging to calculate and record these measurements accurately, affecting patient management.
  • Time Management: Dyscalculia can impact a nurse’s ability to manage time effectively, leading to difficulties in scheduling tasks, adhering to medication administration schedules, or coordinating care efficiently.
  • Documentation: Dyscalculia may affect a nurse’s ability to accurately record numerical information in patient charts, such as vital signs, measurements, or dosages. This can lead to errors in documentation and potential misunderstandings in patient care.

Builders and Dyscalculia

Dyscalculia, a specific learning disability that affects numerical comprehension, can significantly impact builders in their daily work. While the construction field relies heavily on mathematical calculations and measurements, individuals with dyscalculia may encounter various difficulties, including:

  • Estimating quantities: Builders with dyscalculia may struggle to accurately estimate quantities of materials needed for a project. This can lead to over or underordering supplies, resulting in wasted resources or delays.
  • Reading drawing plans: Dyscalculia can make it challenging to interpret and understand the numerical information presented in drawings and construction plans. This difficulty may lead to errors in construction and the misalignment of crucial elements.
  • Spatial awareness and measurements: Builders with dyscalculia may find it difficult to visualize and work with spatial dimensions. This can affect their ability to measure and mark precise locations for structures, resulting in inaccuracies and compromised structural integrity.
  • Calculating dimensions and angles: Dyscalculia can hinder the ability to calculate dimensions accurately and determine angles necessary for proper installation and alignment. This can lead to uneven surfaces, misaligned components, and compromised construction quality.
  • Budgeting and cost estimation: Managing construction budgets and estimating costs effectively can be challenging for builders with dyscalculia. Difficulties in calculating expenses, tracking financial resources, and staying within budget constraints may arise.
  • Time management: Dyscalculia can impact a builder’s ability to accurately estimate project timelines and manage construction schedules. This can result in delays, missed deadlines, and complications in coordinating multiple tasks.
  • Communication and documentation: Dyscalculia may affect a builder’s ability to articulate numerical information accurately or complete documentation, such as recording measurements or creating detailed reports. This can lead to misunderstandings and errors in project communication.

It is important to recognize that dyscalculia does not diminish  skills or expertise but highlights specific challenges in numerical tasks. Individuals struggling to use numbers and maths can benefit from seeking support, assessment, accommodations, and alternative strategies to overcome these difficulties and navigate their numerical responsibilities more effectively. By addressing these challenges, individuals with dyscalculia can continue to excel in their creative work while ensuring accurate and professional  services.

We appreciate you sharing your experiences of maths difficulties in your profession. Contact us to feature on our website support@multiplyscreener.org.uk