“When are we eating dinner, Mommy?” my daughter shouted from the living room.
“When’s that?” she asked.
“Look at the clock,” I replied with a hint of exasperation.
There was no answer, so I poked my head into the next room. My daughter was standing in front of the mantel clock, puzzling over how to tell the time, and more importantly, how much time until dinner.
I didn’t realize my daughter’s inability to tell and calculate time was a symptom of a learning disability. I simply assumed it was because of a lack of good teaching at school, or she hadn’t even tried to learn how to tell time when it was taught.
I would discover later that her difficulty with telling and calculating time was just one symptom of a deeper challenge. She was dyscalculic.
Dyscalculia is sometimes referred to as a “specific learning disability with an impairment in math.” It is best understood as a disability which impacts one’s ability to have a sense of numbers and the quantities they represent. While it is known as a “learning disability,” it impacts so much more than learning. It impacts many everyday tasks, and it doesn’t go away once an individual finishes school.
Signs of dyscalculia include:
- Difficulty telling time, especially on an analog clock, as well as trouble with time calculations.
- Struggling with ordinary numeric operations, especially subtraction, multiplication, and division.
- Mistakes when counting backwards, skip counting, and sequencing numbers from starting points other than “1.”
- Finger-counting long after one’s peers have moved on to more efficient methods.
- Inability to subitize, which is the ability to see small quantities (such as 3, 4, or 5) and know the quantity without counting each item.
- Difficulty estimating, even with small quantities.
- Noticeable memory weakness for numbers, such as sequences, calculation steps, math facts, and multiplication tables.
- Confusion over directions, such as left and right, north and south, along with lack of directional sense.
- Confusion over all aspects of money.
- Not being able to easily recognize number patterns.
- Anxiety in math class and with performing everyday tasks involving numbers.
Dyscalculia is a lesser-known learning disability that is often not recognized or diagnosed. Yet, it is estimated that one in every twenty students and adults are dyscalculic, or about 5% of the population.
Dyscalculic learners need specialized instruction that addresses the specific nuances of dyscalculia. Dyscalculics can grasp numerical concepts when taught in a way that makes sense for their unique brain wiring.
Learn how the Time-Timer Visual Timer helps dyscalculic learners in this previous blog post: