Classification and external resources

Lateral surface of left cerebral hemisphere, viewed from the side. (Intraparietal sulcus visible at upper right, running horizontally.)
ICD-10 F81.2, R48.8
ICD-9 315.1, 784.69

Dyscalculia (or math disability) is a specific learning disability involving innate difficulty in learning or comprehending simple arithmetic. It is akin to dyslexia and includes difficulty in understanding numbers, learning how to manipulate numbers, learning maths facts, and a number of other related symptoms (although there is no exact form of the disability). Math disabilities can also occur as the result of some types of brain injury, in which case the proper term is acalculia, to distinguish it from dyscalculia which is of innate, genetic or developmental origin.

Although math learning difficulties occur in children with low IQ[1] dyscalculia can also be found in people with normal to superior intelligence.[2][3] Estimates of the prevalence of dyscalculia range between 3 and 6% of the population.[2][3]



The term dates back to at least 1974.[4][5]

Mental disabilities specific to math were originally identified in case studies with patients who suffered specific arithmetic disabilities as a result of damage to specific regions of the brain. More commonly, dyscalculia occurs developmentally, as a genetically-linked learning disability which affects a person's ability to understand, remember, or manipulate numbers or number facts (e.g., the multiplication tables). The term is often used to refer specifically to the inability to perform arithmetic operations, but it is also defined by some educational professionals and cognitive psychologists such as Stanislas Dehaene[6] and Brian Butterworth[3] as a more fundamental inability to conceptualize numbers as abstract concepts of comparative quantities (a deficit in "number sense"), which these researchers consider to be a foundational skill, upon which other math abilities build.[2][3]


Dyscalculia comes from Greek and Latin which means: "counting badly". The prefix "dys" comes from Greek and means "badly". "Calculia" comes from the Latin "calculare," which means "to count". The word "calculare" comes from "calculus", which means "pebble" or one of the counters on an abacus.


Numlexia - Synonym for Dyscalculia


The earliest symptom of dyscalculia to appear is a deficit in subitizing. Subitizing is the ability to know, from a brief glance and without counting, how many objects there are in a small group. This is an innate ability, present in human infants from birth. Homologous circuits exist in primates, and many other animals have been shown to possess similar ability; obviously, there is survival value in knowing how many predators there are, etc. Human infants can typically subitize three objects, and this number grows as the person matures, so that most adults can subitize 5 or more objects. However, children with dyscalculia can subitize fewer objects and even when correct take longer to identify the number than their age-matched peers.[7] Other symptoms include difficulty reading analog clocks,[8] and in extreme cases inability to even simply state which of two numbers is larger.

  • Frequent difficulties with arithmetic
  • Difficulty with everyday tasks like reading analog clocks
  • Inability to comprehend financial planning or budgeting, sometimes even at a basic level; for example, estimating the cost of the items in a shopping basket or balancing a checkbook
  • Difficulty with multiplication-tables, and subtraction-tables, addition tables, division tables, mental arithmetic, etc.
  • Difficulty with conceptualizing time and judging the passing of time. May be chronically late or early
  • Particularly problems with differentiating between left and right
  • Might do exceptionally well in a writing related field — many authors and journalists have this disorder[citation needed]
  • Difficulty navigating or mentally "turning" the map to face the current direction rather than the common North=Top usage
  • Having particular difficulty mentally estimating the measurement of an object or distance (e.g., whether something is 10 or 20 feet (3 or 6 metres) away).
  • Often unable to grasp and remember mathematical concepts, rules, formulae, and sequences
  • Inability to concentrate on mentally intensive tasks
  • Low latent inhibition, i.e., over-sensitivity to noise, smell, light and the inability to tune out, filtering unwanted information or impressions. Might have a well-developed sense of imagination due to this (possibly as cognitive compensation to mathematical-numeric deficits)
  • Mistaken recollection of names. Poor name/face retrieval. May substitute names beginning with same letter



Scientists have yet to understand the causes of dyscalculia. They have been investigating in several domains.

  • Deficits in working memory: Adams and Hitch argue that working memory is a major factor in mental addition.[12] From this base, Geary conducted a study that suggested there was a working memory deficit for those who suffered from dyscalculia.[13] However, working memory problems are confounded with general learning difficulties, thus Geary's findings may not be specific to dyscalculia but rather may reflect a greater learning deficit.

Other causes may be:

  • Short term memory being disturbed or reduced, making it difficult to remember calculations.
  • Congenital or hereditary disorders. Studies show indications of this,[14] but the evidence is not yet concrete.

Gerstmann syndrome: dyscalculia is one of a constellation of symptoms acquired after damage to the angular gyrus.

Involvement of the intraparietal sulcus has been suggested.[15]


Some people with Dyscalculia have advocated a shift in attitudes toward the view that it is a difference, rather than a disability that must be treated or cured if they show talent in other areas - such as art skills.

Software intended to remediate dyscalculia has been developed.[16]

Forms of educational therapy, such as neuro-sensory educational therapy, can be an effective treatment.

A study published in Current Biology to "investigate the feasibility of using noninvasive stimulation to the parietal lobe during numerical learning to selectively improve numerical abilities" used transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS) and demonstrated improvement that was still present six months later.[17]

See also


  1. ^ Geary DC, Bailey DH, Littlefield A, Wood P, Hoard MK, Nugent L. (2009). "First-Grade Predictors of Mathematical Learning Disability: A Latent Class Trajectory Analysis". Cognitive Development 24 (4): 411–429. doi:10.1016/j.cogdev.2009.10.001. PMC 2813681. PMID 20046817. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pmcentrez&artid=2813681. 
  2. ^ a b c Butterworth B. (2010). "Foundational numerical capacities and the origins of dyscalculia". Trends in Cognitive Sciences 14 (12): 534–541. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2010.09.007. PMID 20971676. 
  3. ^ a b c d Butterworth B, Varma S, Laurillard D. (2011). "Dyscalculia: from brain to education". Science 332 (6033): 1049–1053. doi:10.1126/science.1201536. PMID 21617068. 
  4. ^ David Pollak (5 March 2009). Neurodiversity in higher education: positive responses to specific learning differences. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 125–. ISBN 9780470997536. http://books.google.com/books?id=eVhQoqboi1UC&pg=PA125. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  5. ^ Kosc, Ladislav, 1974, "Developmental dyscalculia," Journal of Learning Disabilities 7" 159-62.
  6. ^ Dehaene, S. (1997). The Number Sense: How the Mind Creates Mathematics. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195132403. 
  7. ^ Fischer, Gebhardt, Hartnegg "[1]," Optometry & Vision Develop. 39" 24-29.
  8. ^ Posner, Tamar (2008) Dyscalculic in the making: Mathematical sovereignty, neurological citizenship, and the realities of the dyscalculic Publisher ProQuest ISBN 9781109096293 
  9. ^ http://www.as.wvu.edu/~scidis/dyscalcula.html
  10. ^ Levy LM, Reis IL, Grafman J (August 1999). "Metabolic abnormalities detected by 1H-MRS in dyscalculia and dysgraphia". Neurology 53 (3): 639–41. PMID 10449137. http://www.neurology.org/cgi/pmidlookup?view=long&pmid=10449137. 
  11. ^ Mayer E, Martory MD, Pegna AJ, Landis T, Delavelle J, Annoni JM (June 1999). "A pure case of Gerstmann syndrome with a subangular lesion". Brain 122 ( Pt 6): 1107–20. PMID 10356063. http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/pmidlookup?view=long&pmid=10356063. 
  12. ^ Adams JW, Hitch GJ (October 1997). "Working memory and children's mental addition". J Exp Child Psychol 67 (1): 21–38. doi:10.1006/jecp.1997.2397. PMID 9344485. http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0022-0965(97)92397-3. 
  13. ^ Geary DC (September 1993). "Mathematical disabilities: cognitive, neuropsychological, and genetic components". Psychol Bull 114 (2): 345–62. PMID 8416036. http://content.apa.org/journals/bul/114/2/345. 
  14. ^ Monuteaux MC, Faraone SV, Herzig K, Navsaria N, Biederman J (2005). "ADHD and dyscalculia: Evidence for independent familial transmission". J Learn Disabil 38 (1): 86–93. PMID 15727331. http://ldx.sagepub.com/cgi/pmidlookup?view=long&pmid=15727331. 
  15. ^ Rubinsten O, Henik A (February 2009). "Developmental dyscalculia: heterogeneity might not mean different mechanisms". Trends Cogn. Sci. (Regul. Ed.) 13 (2): 92–9. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2008.11.002. PMID 19138550. http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S1364-6613(08)00264-7. 
  16. ^ Wilson AJ, Revkin SK, Cohen D, Cohen L, Dehaene S (2006). "An open trial assessment of "The Number Race", an adaptive computer game for remediation of dyscalculia". Behav Brain Funct 2: 20. doi:10.1186/1744-9081-2-20. PMC 1523349. PMID 16734906. http://www.behavioralandbrainfunctions.com/content/2//20. 
  17. ^ Modulating Neuronal Activity Produces Specific and Long-Lasting Changes in Numerical Competence Cohen Kadosh, Roi; Soskic, Sonja; Iuculano, Teresa; Kanai, Ryota; Walsh, Vincent Current biology : CB doi:10.1016/j.cub.2010.10.007


  • Abeel, Samantha, 2003. My Thirteenth Winter. Orchard Books. ISBN 0-439-33904-9
  • Attwood, Tony, 2002. Dyscalculia in Schools: What It Is and What You Can Do. First and Best in Education Ltd. ISBN 1-86083-614-3
  • Butterworth, Brian, 2004. Dyscalculia Guidance: Helping Pupils With Specific Learning Difficulties in Maths. David Fulton Publications. ISBN 0-7087-1152-9
  • Chinn, Steve, 2004. The Trouble with Maths: A Practical Guide to Helping Learners with Numeracy Difficulties. RoutledgeFalmer. ISBN 0-415-32498-X
  • Henderson, Anne, Came, Fil, and Brough, Mel, 2003, Working with Dyscalculia. Learning Works International Ltd. ISBN 0-9531055-2-0
  • Sharma, Mahesh. Dyscalculia
  • Sharma, Mahesh and Loveless, Eugene, 1988. Dyscalculia. Focus on Learning Problems in Mathematics, CT/LM.
  • Sharma, Mahesh, 1989. Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and other Mathematics Problems. The Math Notebook, CT/LM.
  • Sharma, Mahesh. Berkshire mathematics
  • Campbell, Jamie I.D.,2004. "Handbook of Mathematical Cognition". Psychology Press.

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Dyscalculia — A specific developmental disability affecting a person’s ability to conceptualize and perform mathematics. Mild cases can often be compensated for with use of a calculator, but those with severe dyscalculia will need special education services. * …   Medical dictionary

  • dyscalculia — /dis kal kyooh lee euh/, n. acalculia. [1950 55; DYS + CALCUL(ATE) + IA] * * * …   Universalium

  • dyscalculia — noun Difficulty with numbers and in doing arithmetic …   Wiktionary

  • dyscalculia — n. inability to solve mathematical problems (usually a result of brain impairment) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • dyscalculia — [ˌdɪskal kju:lɪə] noun Psychiatry severe difficulty in making arithmetical calculations, as a result of brain disorder …   English new terms dictionary

  • dyscalculia — dys·cal·cu·lia …   English syllables

  • dyscalculia — /ˌdɪskælˈkjuliə/ (say .diskal kyoohleeuh) noun impairment in ability to calculate. {dys + calcul(ate) + ia} …   Australian English dictionary

  • dyscalculia — noun impaired ability to learn grade appropriate mathematics • Hypernyms: ↑learning disorder, ↑learning disability …   Useful english dictionary

  • дискалькулия — (dyscalculia; дис + лат. calculo считать) см. Акалькулия …   Большой медицинский словарь

  • Дискалькули́я — (dyscalculia; Дис + лат. calculo считать) см. Акалькулия …   Медицинская энциклопедия