What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Dyscalculia in the Classroom?

There are a lot of debates, studies, and resources looking into how students and parents can support children struggling with reading fluency, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, and other related learning disabilities. At Da Vinci Collaborative, we know firsthand that offering support and enabling access to all available tools and technologies are crucial to guiding students on the path to literacy. But we also know that one of the biggest challenges in classrooms today, especially when it comes to struggling students, is related to a different, more complicated subject: math. 

Math is definitely not a subject or a field to everyone’s liking; in fact, it’s probably one of the most disliked subjects for school students, especially those with a more creative mind, who tend to do better in languages and arts. Exact sciences can be challenging for students, and even more so in the case of students with learning disabilities like ADHD. Math is a subject that requires a lot of focus and exactness, and in the case of children struggling with different learning disabilities, it can be a frustrating activity that can cause anxiety and avoidant behavior. 

A learning disorder that impacts someone’s ability to process math and number-related tasks is known as dyscalculia. Just as dyslexia is a person’s inability to process letters, words, sentences, as they struggle with reading fluency, dyscalculia does the same when it comes to numbers, equations, percentages, and other math-related tasks. 

The signs and symptoms of dyscalculia

The signs of dyscalculia usually appear at a young age, when pupils start to learn basic math at school. A child might have difficulty processing simple calculations and equations and doing numbers-related school work. They might also have trouble with their homework at home. Symptoms might be mild in the beginning and a diagnosis of dyscalculia is often delayed, because math in itself can be a challenging subject for children, especially if they’re more inclined towards the arts and languages. 

As the lessons evolve and grow more complex, signs that a child might be showing early symptoms of dyscalculia can begin to emerge. The child might also become frustrated and develop avoidant behaviors or anxiety whenever they have to work on math-related concepts and tasks, and it can be an extremely disconcerting time for students and parents alike. Children struggling with dyscalculia can also present with symptoms of dyslexia at the same time, making it even more challenging for them to perform well at school. 

Signs and symptoms that a student might be suffering from dyscalculia include:

  • Trouble counting upward or backwards
  • Trouble connecting a number to the amount of objects in front of them
  • Recognizing math symbols 
  • Trouble paying for things at a store or counting money
  • Difficulty counting on fingers 
  • Difficulty memorizing multiplication tables or doing simple calculations by memory
  • Organizing numbers from lowest to highest or vice versa
  • Breaking down math problems in smaller steps to solve them
  • Measuring quantities for cooking or science class

The symptoms of dyscalculia usually appear in elementary school, and gradually progress and become more obvious as the child moves into high school and college. But dyscalculia can also affect adults, making it difficult to navigate daily life. Paying bills, shopping, savings, measuring things, cooking and baking, organizing things on a scale – these are some of the things that adults with dyscalculia can find challenging. So, it’s crucial that parents and educators work together to identify this disability early on, and intervene with proper strategies and tools to help children thrive, both at home and at school, without letting dyscalculia affect their daily lives. 

Can dyscalculia be treated?

Unfortunately, dyscalculia is a lifelong affliction, starting off in early childhood and progressing as a person grows into adulthood. However, there are ways to accommodate young children in the classroom to prevent the condition from worsening and affecting their lives in the long run. Of course, early diagnosis and intervention are key here, so it;s important for educators to be aware of this disability, know how to spot the signs and symptoms, and use the right teaching strategies to help these students tackle this challenge. 

Knowing what to look for enables educators to spot early signs of dyscalculia, set a diagnosis, and start supporting children through special instruction in math, using visual aids, technology, and specific strategies. Schema-based instruction is another useful tactic where teachers can show students how to apply patterns of knowledge to solve math problems, like addition and subtraction, multiplication or division. 

To learn more about dyscalculia, how to spot it, how it manifests, and what techniques to use to support students in your classroom struggling with math, reach out to Da Vinci Collaborative and talk to our experts. Our focus and main goal is to support educators in their quest to provide the best possible education to students in their classroom struggling with learning disabilities, including ADHD, autism, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, or mental health issues. 

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