What is dyscalculia?

Best ways for parents to help a child with Dyscalculia

The discovery of “Dyscalculia” dates to the year 1949 and it is a type of learning disorder, but it specifically deals with a disability in math and anything math related. The word Dyscalculia is a combination of the prefix “dys-” which in Greek language means “badly” and the root “calculia” in Latin language means “to count”. This learning disability in math has been recognized by WHO (World Health organization) as well as DSM (diagnostic and statistical manual of manual disorder). 

One in twenty individuals suffer from Dyscalculia which is close to 4-7% of the world’s population but it is not a commonly known disorder and hence many professionals, teachers and parents don’t even have awareness about it. Over the last decade, there has been a shift in awareness about this learning disability through research work in this space but there is a long way to go. 

Dyscalculia may sound simple, but it tends to affect every single aspect of student’s life and may make your child feel underconfident, introvert and in many cases stupid. They may operate in fear that someone will make fun of them for something so simple. Everything in the world originates from numbers and it can get very tough and overwhelming for a child to deal with even small or day to day things.


dyscalculic children


Ways to spot dyscalculia:

In general, many kids try to avoid doing mathematical tasks but how can parents know if their child has a learning disability in math? Here are some common symptoms & indicators that can give you a fair idea whether your child is dealing with Dyscalculia or not:

  • If your child constantly complains about numbers not making sense to him or her. 
  • If they are having trouble comparing numbers (larger with smaller)
  • Patterns in counting incorrectly 
  • Difficulty in memorizing multiplication tables
  • Showcasing inconsistency in addition, subtraction results
  • Inability to tell time from an analog clock 
  • Problems with differentiating between left and right & reading maps 
  • Inability to call sequences of events in day-to-day life

For children with learning disabilities in math, passing math exams can be an extremely difficult and or an impossible task. A child may also feel ashamed among the group of friends who find the concept easy but for your child it is no less than operating in pressure and fighting a battle.

Dr. Kathryn Murray, an education consultant who works with early childhood education & is passionate about brain development topics, says that with regards to brain development, a coach or a professional instructor who can help a child understand and answer his/her homework questions can play a crucial role in making the child feel that they are in a safe space. At this point, the child is no more in a fight or flight mode but rather has a calm mind. With a calm mind a child can begin to gain confidence & self-esteem as they are no longer brain fogged. This is the stage when we find a child will start to use the top part of his/her brain and indulge in an active learning process.

Hence, it is important for parents to understand issues with regards to learning disability and take the right steps to help your child overcome the fears.

How to help children with dyscalculia?  

As per research the learning disability in math is related to issues in brain development and genetics. Although in most cases the learning difficulties may become visible only in school, this disorder seems to exist in a child from birth. As Dyscalculia is not a disease therefore medication cannot help curing this learning disorder. But there are some organic ways of treating this disorder and improving a child’s mental math ability.

Research also showcases that children suffering from Dyscalculia are weak in mathematical concepts but are gifted in many other areas. They are your out of the box thinkers and as parents you can observe that your child may be solving problems differently than usual or you find them experimenting & challenging the concepts & thinking outside of the box.


helping children with dyscalculia


Therefore, the first step towards helping children with dyscalculia is to understand the other ways that they enjoy learning. Parents can start with a simple learning style assessment for their child such as VARK quiz and know whether their child’s learning preferences.

Then, the second step would be to find help in terms of a professional coach/mentor or a teacher who can work with the child in a personalized setting. As such, instruction time in the classroom is necessarily limited and there is very little space for your child to ask questions or even for the teacher to customize based on the dyscalculic child’s learning style. 

  • In person as well as online one-to-one tutoring models have shown successful results in helping children with dyscalculia. 

A popular example of one-to-one tutoring is the paradigm designed by Lynn Fuchs. This model focuses on teaching concepts in math and numbers using games, flash cards and interventions. 

Another example in this space is from TutorEye, an personalized online tutoring platform where the focus is on individual students and results. The tutors start by reviewing a child’s learning style preference and then focus on tutoring students on the core and foundational skills, breaking down complicated problems into smaller steps, providing math formula sheets to students for reference. The platform is also built with an audio video and whiteboard technology which helps in making the sessions interactive as well as allowing both tutor and student to write, express through charts or draw sketches to solve problems. Along with personalized online tutoring, students can get math help with their assignments in under 3 minutes. The tutors give step-by-step instructions on the homework questions allowing the students to repeat these steps and improve their learning ability.

  • Adaptive & automated computer-based intervention models have also shown great results on students with learning disabilities. 

One such successful model created by Räsänen and colleagues is computer-assisted intervention (CAI) games to help young learners with their number skills.

Along with the above it is critical to get support from family and friends as support from loved ones and do magical things. It can have long-lasting impacts on the child’s ability to deal with the learning disorder and excelling in higher education and even finding workplace success.

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