Dyscalculia: Not “Just Bad at Math”
Now that we know the brain is capable of change at any age, no one can use the excuse that they’re “just bad at math.” That also means you can’t blame your son’s algebra grade on bad genes, or your daughter’s struggles with calculus on a less-than-perfect teacher.
The truth is that anyone can have dyscalculia, a fancy word for “trouble with numbers.” Math struggles have almost nothing to do with genetics, gender, age or study habits. And plenty of highly intelligent people struggle with math while excelling in other subjects. In fact, many people with dyscalculia – which affects about 5 percent of the population – have normal or accelerated language acquisition.
Causes, diagnoses and treatment
So if your genes, gender and geometry teacher aren’t to blame, what is? Most people with dyscalculia have poor visual processing and memory skills. These weak cognitive skills may manifest as specific symptoms that are not as prevalent in same-age peers. They might include:
- Reversing or transposing numbers (89 becomes 98)
- Confusion over math symbols
- Difficulty with mental math
- Trouble telling time and direction
- Problems grasping and remembering concepts
- Trouble with sequencing
- Longer-than-normal homework sessions
While homework struggles and poor performance on standardized and classroom math tests are often the first indications of dyscalculia, the most accurate diagnosis of any learning struggles is found through cognitive skills testing. With an accurate measurement of specific brain skills – such as computation skills, working memory, processing speed, numerical fluency, sequencing and planning – a custom cognitive skills training program can be designed to strengthen those skills.
If your child has fallen behind in subject matter due to a lengthy absence from school (e.g. from an illness, injury or family move), tutoring can provide a short-term fix to help them catch up on the material. But if your child has fallen behind in math due to weak cognitive skills, no amount of re-teaching the material will help. Instead, look for a program to develop the broad set of underlying cognitive skills that are required to efficiently and effectively learn mathematical concepts, solve problems, and perform mathematical calculations faster and easier.
It’s not natural for anyone to be “just bad at math.” In fact, just the opposite is true. The plasticity of our brains allows us to structurally reconnect the circuits in our brain in order to functionally enhance our ability to make “natural sense” out of numbers.
Give your kids the opportunity to excel in math by strengthening the underlying brain skills to make it easy, fast and – dare we say – fun!