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Dyscalculia is a term that has been used for many years when talking about a math disability. Dyscalculia means "a severe or complete inability to calculate". Some people use the term dyscalculia to describe a child who has problems learning mathematics skills and concepts. However, the terms learning disabilities in mathematics and math disability are used more widely today.
By Diane Pedrotty Bryant, Ph.D.
According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA), a learning disability in mathematics can be identified in the area of mathematics calculation (arithmetic) and/or mathematics problem solving. Research confirms this definition of a math disability.
A child with a learning disability in math calculations may often struggle learning the basic skills in early math instruction where the problem is rooted in memory or cognitive difficulties. For example, research studies have shown that students who struggle to master arithmetic combinations (basic facts) compared to students who demonstrated mastery of arithmetic combinations showed little progress over a two-year period in remembering basic fact combinations when they were expected to perform under timed conditions. According to Geary (2004), this problem appears to be persistent and characteristic of memory or cognitive difficulties. Students with math calculations difficulties have problems with some or most of the following skills:
A learning disability in solving math word problems taps into other types of skills or processes. Difficulties with any of these skills can interfere with a child's ability to figure out how to effectively solve the problem.Your child may exhibit difficulty with some or most of the processes involved in solving math word problems such as:
Students with a math disability demonstrate developmental delay in learning the rules and procedures for solving calculations or word problems. An example of a math rule includes "any number × 0 = 0." A procedure includes the steps for solving arithmetic problems such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. A delay means the child may learn the rules and procedures at a slower rate than his peer group and will need assistance in mastering those rules and procedures.
Some children have trouble understanding the meaning of the language or vocabulary of mathematics (e.g., greater than, less than, equal, equation). Unfortunately, unlike reading, the meaning of a math word or symbol cannot be inferred from the context. One has to know what each word or symbol means in order to understand the math problem. For instance, to solve the following problems, a child must understand the meaning of the symbols they contain: (3 + 4) x (6 + 8) =? or 72 < 108 True or False?
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