Dyscalculia: What it is, Types, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Dyscalculia: What it is, Types, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Dyscalculia: What it is, Types, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Mathematics is fundamental for our development. Not only because they help us acquire skills such as logical thinking but also because we use them in tasks as simple as going to the supermarket to buy. That is, they are vital to understanding the world around us. However, for some children, learning mathematics is a significant challenge. This difficulty has a name, dyscalculia, and in the following post we will tell you everything about it. From what it is and what symptoms it presents to activities to work on it.

What is dyscalculia?


Dyscalculia is a specific learning disability that affects the ability to understand, learn and perform mathematical and number-based operations. It affects people of all ages, although it is usually diagnosed in children.

Causes of dyscalculia

The cause of dyscalculia is not yet fully understood, but it is believed to be multifactorial, that is, it is the result of the interaction of several factors. Some of the factors that have been associated with this difficulty are:

Genetic factors

Dyscalculia appears to have a hereditary component. Studies have shown that children with parents or siblings with dyscalculia are at higher risk of having it themselves.

Brain disorders

Differences in brain structure and executive function have been observed in people with dyscalculia. These differences would affect the areas of the brain that are responsible for the processing of numerical, spatial and visuospatial information.

Difficulties in developing number sense

Number sense is the innate ability to understand and manipulate numbers. Children with dyscalculia have difficulty developing this skill.

Environmental factors

Some environmental factors, such as poverty, lack of educational stimulation, or exposure to harmful substances during pregnancy, can also increase the risk of developing dyscalculia.

It is important to note that dyscalculia is not an intelligence problem. People with dyscalculia can be intelligent and successful in other areas of life. However, this difficulty, if not diagnosed and treated, can significantly affect their academic performance and self-esteem.

Types of dyscalculia

There are different types of dyscalculia, which are classified according to the specific areas of mathematical processing that are affected. These types are:

Practognostic dyscalculia

Practognostic dyscalculia involves a notable difficulty in performing mental calculations, which affects the use of mathematical tools such as the abacus or calculators, and even the understanding of the positional value of numbers. People with this type of dyscalculia also find it very difficult to estimate quantities or measure distances, affecting both daily and academic activities. This difficulty is associated with challenges in numerical and spatial processing, as well as with the application of mathematical concepts in practical situations.

Gnostic ideo dyscalculia

Ideo-gnostic dyscalculia is characterized by a difficulty in understanding abstract mathematical concepts and symbols, as well as in understanding the relationships between numbers. People who suffer from it may have trouble solving simple math problems and learning multiplication tables. This difficulty lies in the interpretation of the abstract nature of mathematics, affecting the ability to relate numerical concepts with their symbolic representation and apply them in various contexts.

Spatial dyscalculia

Those who experience spatial dyscalculia face obstacles when visualizing and manipulating objects in space, which directly impacts their understanding of geometric concepts such as shapes, angles, and measurements. They may also have difficulty reading maps or interpreting plans. This type of dyscalculia indicates a challenge in the capacity for spatial conceptualization and the ability to understand how objects relate to each other in space.

Verbal dyscalculia

Verbal dyscalculia involves difficulties naming mathematical quantities, numbers, terms, symbols, and relationships, as well as problems listing, comparing, and manipulating objects mathematically. The difficulty also extends to understanding mathematical concepts presented orally. Verbal dyscalculia highlights the importance of the interaction between language stimulation in children and mathematics, affecting how mathematical concepts are communicated and understood through spoken language.

Lexical dyscalculia

Lexical dyscalculia manifests itself in difficulty reading mathematical symbols and understanding equations or written mathematical expressions, as well as problems writing numbers and mathematical symbols correctly. This type of dyscalculia points to a problem between written language and mathematics, affecting the ability we have to interact with mathematics in its symbolic and written form, crucial for the learning and application of mathematics at higher levels.

Symptoms of dyscalculia


The symptoms of dyscalculia vary depending on age and the severity of the difficulty. However, the most common are:

  • Difficulty learning to count.
  • Problems understanding basic mathematical concepts such as greater than, less than, equal to, etc.
  • Confusion with mathematical symbols (+, -, x, /).
  • Difficulty learning multiplication tables.
  • Difficulty reading time or understanding the calendar.
  • Problems to solve simple mathematical problems.
  • Difficulty estimating quantities or measuring distances.
  • Clumsiness with money.
  • Difficulty following instructions that involve numbers or measurements.
  • Lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem.

How is dyscalculia diagnosed?

The diagnosis of dyscalculia should always be made by a qualified professional, such as a psychologist or neuropsychologist. A diagnosis is achieved through a process that is generally composed of the following stages:

Skills assessment

Assessment begins with the administration of standardized tests designed to measure various mathematical skills, including but not limited to, basic arithmetic, mental arithmetic, basic problem solving, understanding of mathematical concepts, and geometric skills. These tests help determine a child's level of mathematical proficiency compared to peers of similar age. Tools such as the Butterworth and Varma test are often used to more accurately identify specific difficulties related to dyscalculia.

Review of academic and medical history

A detailed analysis of the child's academic performance is carried out, with special attention to his or her career in mathematics. This includes reviewing report cards, teacher reports, and any previous educational evaluations. The goal is to identify patterns of math difficulty over time. A review of the child's medical history is also often done to rule out other conditions that could influence his or her ability to learn mathematics, such as vision or hearing problems, neurological disorders, or attention deficits that could affect overall learning.


Through interviews with the child and parents or caregivers, we seek to obtain a deeper understanding of mathematical difficulties in the context of daily life. These conversations can reveal how math difficulties affect daily extracurricular activities for kids, the child's self-esteem, and his or her attitude toward learning. Parents and caregivers are the ones who can provide valuable information about the child's early development, including developmental milestones, educational history, and behaviors observed at home that are relevant to the diagnosis.

Treatment for dyscalculia

There is no cure for dyscalculia, but there are treatments that can help improve the mathematical skills and academic performance of people with this difficulty. Said treatment should always be as individualized as possible, since the difficulty and needs of each person will be different. In general, what is usually done is:

Multisensory intervention

This methodology is based on the premise that interaction with the study material through different sensory channels facilitates a deeper and more lasting understanding of abstract concepts. For example, the use of building blocks allows students to visualize and manipulate physical representations of numbers, offering a tangible understanding of quantity and numerical structure. Similarly, songs and rhythms can be powerful tools for memorizing multiplication tables, transforming a potentially tedious task into a playful and sticky activity.

Classroom adaptations

In the school environment, it is essential to implement specific adaptations to meet the needs of those students with dyscalculia. This could include allowing extra time during exams to relieve pressure and allow for deeper reflection, as well as allowing the use of calculators to assist with calculation and numerical conceptualisation. Additionally, access to support materials specifically designed to address their challenges is an invaluable resource for these students, helping them keep pace with their curriculum more effectively.

Individualized tutoring

Individualized tutoring allows you to adjust learning rhythms and styles to the child's needs. This approach facilitates a detailed exploration of mathematical concepts, ensuring that the student not only understands the "what" but the "why" behind each procedure.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

By addressing the negative attitudes and fears associated with this subject, cognitive behavioral therapy seeks to replace them with a growth mindset and a more open and positive reinforcement disposition towards mathematical learning, which has a significant impact on confidence and student performance.

Assistive technology

Finally, assistive technology offers a wide range of tools and resources that can be customized to meet specific needs. From specialized calculators that help in understanding basic concepts to educational software and mobile applications designed to reinforce mathematical skills in an interactive and attractive way, these technologies are indispensable allies on the path to academic success.

Activities for children with dyscalculia at home


To help children with dyscalculia develop mathematical skills at home, it is crucial to implement activities that are interactive, stimulating and tailored to their specific needs. Here are some ideas:

  • Count everyday objects at home, such as books on a shelf or cutlery on the table.
  • Board games that involve counting moves or progress in the game.
  • Create cards with numbers and ask the child to order them from smallest to largest or vice versa.
  • Classify objects by size, shape, color or any other characteristic, your clothes, for example.
  • Compare quantities of elements in different sets and determine which is greater or less.
  • Organize a toy box by classifying objects according to specific criteria.
  • Estimate the number of steps to get from one place to another at home.
  • Guess how many objects are in a container before counting them.
  • Estimate the time it will take to complete a task and then verify it.
  • Put up kids wall clocks or give them an kiddus time teacher wrist watch, specifically designed to help them learn the time.

  • Use building blocks or counters to represent and visualize numbers and mathematical operations.
  • Use manipulative materials such as beads or coins to practice basic operations such as addition and subtraction.
  • Play memory games for children with ADHD with numbered cards or pattern cards.
  • Create number sequences and visual patterns for the child to repeat and continue.
  • Practice memorizing basic math facts, such as multiplication tables, through flashcard games.
  • Involve the child in everyday tasks that require mathematics, such as measuring ingredients when cooking or determining the correct change when shopping.
  • Play “stores” at home, where the child acts as the seller and has to calculate prices and make change.
  • Download educational apps and games designed specifically for children with dyscalculia.


In conclusion, dyscalculia is a real difficulty that affects a significant percentage of children. Beyond the difficulties it causes, with diagnosis, appropriate support and individualized strategies, people with dyscalculia are perfectly capable of overcoming these difficulties and achieving success both in school and in life.

Author: Kiddus Team

At Kiddus we take pride in creating high-quality accessories for kids that are both functional and fashionable. Our team is composed of professionals in the children's industry, including designers, engineers, and child development experts. We work together to create innovative and safe products that meet the needs of both children and parents. With years of experience and a passion for quality, we strive to exceed expectations and bring joy to families around the world.

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