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## Dyscalculia: The Misunderstood Learning Disorder

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**1. **Dyscalculia: The Misunderstood Learning Disorder National Council of Teachers of Mathematics 2008 Regional Conference and Exposition
Reno, Nevada
November 6, 2008

**2. ** Speaker Information
Kay Haralson, Associate Professor/Activity Coordinator, Student Success Specialist, Title III Grant, Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, TN, haralsonk@apsu.edu
Dr. Loretta Griffy, Associate Professor of Mathematics, Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, TN, griffyl@apsu.edu

**3. ** Definitions of Dyscalculia
“The complexity of numerical processing has made defining what it means to have a specific mathematical learning disability (dyscalculia) difficult.” (Butterworth, 2003)
No universal definition (a few samples)
Difficulties in performing mathematics calculations of certain types (www.dyscalculiainfo.org)
An unexpected difficulty that some people have in dealing with mathematical problems (Attwood)
Having huge problems in math, in spite of being of normal intelligence (www.dys.dk)

**4. ** Definitions of Dyscalculia
A condition that affects the ability to acquire arithmetic skills. Dyscalculia learners may have difficulty understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers and have problems learning number facts and procedures. Even if they produce a correct answer or use a correct method, they may do so mechanically and without confidence.” (The Department of Education and Skills, London, 2001)
A term referring to a wide range of life-long learning difficulties involving math. There is no single form of math disability, and difficulties vary from person to person and affect people differently in school and throughout life. (www.ld.org)

**5. ** Diagnostic Criteria for Mathematics Disorder (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, American Psychiatric Association)
Mathematical ability, as measured by individually administered standardized tests, is substantially below that expected given the person’s chronological age, measured intelligence, and age-appropriate education.
The math difficulties significantly interfere with academic achievement or activities of daily living that require mathematical ability.
If a sensory deficit is present, the difficulties in mathematics ability are in excess of those usually associated with it.

**6. ** Skills Impaired in Mathematics Disorder (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, American Psychiatric Association)
“Linguistic” skills: understanding or naming mathematical terms, operations, or concepts, and decoding written problems into mathematical symbols
“Perceptual” skills: recognizing or reading numerical symbols or arithmetic signs and clustering objects into groups
“Attention” skills: copying numbers or figures correctly, remembering to add in “carried” numbers, and observing operational signs
“Mathematical” skills: following sequences of mathematical steps, counting objects, and learning multiplication tables

**7. ** Underlying Causes
Possible genetic anomaly, there is a strong genetic influence on the development of mathematical skills. (www.teachingexpertise.com)
It is thought that the ability to do math resides in the parietal lobe of the brain. One study in the United Kingdom provides evidence that dyscalculia is caused by malformations in this portion of the brain. (www.labnews.com.uk,www.youramazingbrain.org)

**8. ** Underlying Causes
Visual-spatial difficulties-trouble processing what the eye sees. (www.ldonline.org)
Weakness in visual processing of numbers and mathematical situations. (www.ldonline.org)
Auditory processing difficulties - trouble processing and making sense of what the ear hears. (www.ldonline.org)

**9. ** Underlying Causes (www.ldonline.org)
Attention deficits
Memory problems
Information processing deficits
Motor disabilities
Problems with sequencing, organizing information
Problems with understanding concepts and symbols

**10. ** Prevalence of Dyscalculia
Dyscalculia is just as prevalent as dyslexia and ADHD; around 5% of the population (www.labnews.co.uk)
5-8% of school age children (Strauss, 2003)
3-6% of population (www.bda.dyslexia.org)
6-7% of school age children (www.ldonline.org)
1% of all children (www.dys.dk)
1% of all school age children have Mathemtics Disorder (DSM-IV-TR, 2000)
5-6% of all children (Adler, 2001)

**11. ** Symptoms or Warning Signs by Age
Young Children (www.ld.org, www.teachingexpertise.com)
There may be an impaired sense of number size, affecting the comparison of numbers, etc.
Difficulty learning to count
Trouble recognizing printed numbers
Difficulty with connecting the idea of a number with what it represents in the real world

**12. ** Symptoms or Warning Signs by Age
Young Children (www.ld.org)
Poor memory for numbers
Trouble organizing things in a logical way, sorting by shape, size, color, etc.
Trouble recognizing groups and patterns
Trouble comparing and contrasting, smaller/larger, taller/shorter

**13. ** Symptoms or Warning Signs by Age
School Age Children (www.ld.org)
Trouble learning math facts
Difficulty developing math problem solving skills
Will not notice visual patterns such as 10, 20, 30.
Poor long term memory for math functions
Not familiar with math vocabulary
Difficulty with measuring things

**14. ** Symptoms or Warning Signs by Age
School Age Children (www.ld.org)
Avoiding games that require strategy
Visual-spatial difficulties hinder comprehension of written mathematics
Difficulties reading a clock
Problems with time perceptions, leads to problems with planning time required to complete a task

**15. ** Symptoms or Warning Signs by Age
School Age Children (www.teachingexpertise.com)
Relies on tangible supports such as fingers, tally marks
Slowness in given answers to math questions
Difficulty with estimation and approximation
Difficulty recognizing what arithmetical operation is required in a problem
Easily overloaded with pages/worksheets full of figures

**16. ** Symptoms or Warning Signs by Age
Teenagers and Adults (www.ld.org)
Difficulty estimating cost (shopping, groceries)
Difficulty learning math concepts beyond basic math facts
Poor ability to budget or balance a check book
Trouble with concepts of time, such as going by a schedule or approximating time

**17. ** Symptoms or Warning Signs by Age
Teenagers and Adults (www.ld.org)
Trouble with mental math
Difficulty finding different approaches to one problem
Trouble with visualizing patterns, different parts of a math problem, or identifying critical information needed in problem solving

**18. **Dyscalculia: The Misunderstood Learning Disorder Signs That Difficulties With Math are Beyond “Normal”
(www.ld.org, www.as.wvu.edu, www.dyscalculia.org, www.teachingexpertise.com)
Good in verbal skills, but difficulty with math skills
Good memory for printed words, but difficulty reading numbers or recalling numbers in sequence
Good with general math concepts, but frustrated when specific computation or organization skills need to be used
Difficulty with position and spatial organization

**19. ** Signs That Difficulties With Math are Beyond “Normal” (www.ld.org, www.as.wvu.edu, www.dyscalculia.org)
Trouble with the concept of time: late, doesn’t remember schedules, can’t approximate how long a task will take, confused on past/future events
Poor sense of direction, confusion on left/right orientation
Reliance on imitation and rote learning instead of understanding

**20. ** Signs That Difficulties With Math are Beyond “Normal” (www.ld.org, www.as.wvu.edu, www.dyscalculia.org)
Poor long term memory, will know math facts one day, not remember the next
Easily disoriented and easily confused by changes in routine
Fails to see big financial picture
History of academic failure contributing to the development of learned helplessness in mathematics

**21. ** Identifying Dyscalculia (www.ldonline.org, www.dyscalculiainfo.org)
Should include a one-to-one mathematics interview, including the use of manipulatives, i.e. coins, base ten block, geoboards, Cuisenaire rods, tangrams, calculator. The interview should:
* focus on how the child does the mathematics
* explore the child’s ability to compute, make predictions based on understanding patterns, sort in a logical way, organize space with flexibility, and to measure

**22. ** Identifying Dyscalculia (www.ldonline.org, www.dyscalculiainfo.org)
* note strengths and weaknesses
* note whether child talks to herself, draws a picture to help understand a situation, asks for problem to be repeated
* see if child has the capacity to estimate before doing computations

**23. ** Identifying Dyscalculia (www.ldonline.org, www.dyscalculiainfo.org)
There are no universally accepted tests for diagnosing dyscalculia, however some tests have been developed:
Dyscalculia Screener, developed by Prof. Brian Butterworth in London, is a “computer-based assessment that indicates dyscalculia tendencies by measuring pupil’s response time as well as the accuracy of their answers.” (www.gl-assessment.co.uk/education/resources/dyscalculia_screener)
On-line diagnosis: The diagnosis does not carry official status, but you can obtain a letter of diagnosis, cost of $625. www.dyscalculia.org/diagnosis.html

**24. ** Identifying Dyscalculia (www.ldonline.org, www.dyscalculiainfo.org)
The Dyscalculia Centre provides a list of various diagnostic tools to evaluation students for dyscalculia at the following website www.dyscalculia.me.uk/testing.html including:
Quick test: A list of 24 points to look for
Comparative test: Provided in the book Tests of Dyscalculia by Tony Attwood.
Computer test: Dyscalculia Screener
Educational psychologist test: Test done by a private psychologist

**25. ** Strategies to Help Students with Dyscalculia (www.ldonline.org, www.ld.org, www.as.wvu.edu)
First step must be to identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses, understand how a student learns best
Use tutoring outside the classroom, with a one-on-one instructor
Provide a distraction free place to work
Encourage repeated reinforcement and specific practice

**26. ** Strategies to Help Students with Dyscalculia (www.ldonline.org, www.ld.org, www.as.wvu.edu)
Use graph paper to organize work and ideas
Use different approaches to memorizing math facts, formulas, rules, etc.
Practice estimating as a first step to solve a problem
Encourage students to work hard to “visualize” math problems, draw pictures, look at diagrams, etc.

**27. ** Strategies to Help Students with Dyscalculia (www.ldonline.org, www.ld.org, www.as.wvu.edu)
Encourage verbalizing while problem solving, this uses auditory skills which may be a strength
Try to relate problems to real life experiences
Provide uncluttered worksheets, preferably lined
Use rhythm or music to help memorize math facts, etc.

**28. ** Strategies to Help Students with Dyscalculia (www.ldonline.org, www.ld.org, www.as.wvu.edu)
If possible, let student take tests one-on-one in the instructors presence.
Allow extra time to complete work if needed
Be aware if students become panicky, provide reassurance
Monitor student progress on a frequent basis

**29. ** Strategies to Help Students with Dyscalculia (www.ldonline.org, www.ld.org, www.as.wvu.edu)
Teach important concepts to mastery
If needed, allow calculator use for basic operations to allow focus on problem solving
BE PATIENT- Math can be a traumatic experience and is highly emotional because of past failures.

**30. ** References
Adler, Bjorn. What is Dyscalculia?, 2001, www.dyscalculiainfo.org
Attwood, Tony. “Dyscalculia and Dyslexia, Two different issues, or part of the same problem”, First and Best in Education, Ltd., www.firstandbest.co.uk
The British Dyslexia Association, www.bda-dyslexia.org.uk
Butterworth, Brian., Yeo, D. “Dyscalculia Guidance”, nferNelson, London, 2004.
Chinn, Steve. “Dealing with Dyscalculia, Sum Hope2, Souvenir Press, London, England, 2007.

**31. ** References
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC, 2000.
The Dyscalculia Centre, www.dyscalculia.me.uk/testing.html
Geary, David C. “Mathematics Disabilities, What We Know and Don’t Know”, www.ldonline.org/ld_indepth/math_skills/geary_math_dis.html

**32. ** References
Mercer, Cecil D. and Susan P. Miller, “Educational Aspects of Mathematics Disabilities”, Journal of Learning Disabilities, Vol 30, No. 1, pp 47-56, Jan/Feb 1997, www.ldonline.org/ld_indepth/math_skills/mathld_mercer.html
National Center for Learning Disabilities, www.ld.org
Strauss, Valerie. “Trying to Figure Out Why Math is So Hard for Some, Theories Abound: Genetics, Gender, How It’s Taught”, Washington Post, Dec. 2, 2003, www.washingtonpost.com/wp_dyn/articles/A26826-2003dec1.html

**33. ** References
West Virginia University, www.as.wvu.edu/~scidis/dyscalcula.html
Wright, C. Christina. “Learning Disabilities in Mathematics”, www.ldonline.org/ld_indepth/math_skills/math_1.html
www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/06/08/2268573.htm?section=world Dyscalculia more common than dyslexia study
www.autismcoach.com/Schools.htm Provides information about ordering testing materials.
www.dys.dk/eng/dysk.html On dyslexia, dyscalculia and language impairments

**34. ** References
www.dyscalculia.me.uk/testing.html Information about testing
www.dyscalculia.org Math Learning Disability Resource
www.dyscalculia.org.uk United Kingdom Dyscalculia website
www.dyscalculiainfo.org Info from Cognitive Centre Sweden
www.gl-assessment.co.uk/education/resources/dyscalculia_screener Provides information about Dyscalculia Screener
www.labnews.co.uk/printer_friendly.php/1834/study-is-breakthrough-for-dyscalculia-sufferers Study is breakthrough for dyscalculia sufferers

**35. ** References
www.mathematicalbrain.com/int02.html Interview with Brian Butterworth on The Mathematical Brain. March 2000.
www.teachingexpertise.com Strategies for Changing Behavior website
www.youramazingbrain.org/brainchanges/dyscalculia.htm “Dyscalculia: Numbers, numbers everywhere . . .”
www.youramazingbrain.org/newresearch/bornmaths.htm “Born Good at maths?”

**36. ** To obtain a copy of this power point presentation go to:
www.apsu.edu/haralsonk
and click on Dyscalculia Presentation
or
email Kay at haralsonk@apsu.edu
Thank you for your attention!