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Six Important Facts to Know About Math Learning Disabilities

Math Learning Disability in ChildrenBusy parents need fast facts and tips to help their children succeed. If your child struggles with math or has been identified with a learning disability (LD) in math, called “dyscalculia,” you want to know what it means and what you can do to help your child succeed. Here are the top-level findings based on several expert-hosted LD Talks that covered this subject.

  1. “Dyscalculia” is not a single type of math disability, but a wide range of lifelong learning disabilities involving math. People with dyscalculia may struggle with number sense, such as counting, estimation and comparison of quantities and basic arithmetic. Quick retrieval of number facts and calculation fluency seem to be key characteristics of people with dyscalculia.

  2. Mathematical learning disabilities are common among school-age children. Recent studies suggest that the incidence of math LD ranges from 5% to 9% of children. Math LD can co-occur with other types of LD, but a substantial percentage of children have math LD alone. Boys are more likely to have math LD than girls.

  3. Researchers have found a link between kindergarten math performance and later math achievement. Because of this, it is important to nurture math in preschool and elementary students If your school-age child struggles with math, do not delay sharing your concerns with school personnel or other professionals. Math instruction builds upon foundational skills taught in the lower grades, so it is important that children who struggle receive interventions early.

  4. Students with strong executive function skills are more likely to do well in math. Those with poor executive function skills may struggle with organizing information for multiple-step problem solving, monitoring the use of problem-solving strategies and other crucial processes for answering math problems. It is possible that remediating executive function skills may help students with dyscalculia.

  5. Learning strategies for students who struggle with math depend in large part on the type of difficulty the student is experiencing. Whether the child has reading difficulties should also be taken into account. In general, programs for students with math LD should include attention to basic skills, explicit instruction and lots of opportunities for practice and mastery. Programs should make sure that students revisit and master earlier concepts and skills before moving forward.

  6. Research on math LD lags behind research on reading and other learning disabilities. While 30 years of solid research on reading has been applied to classroom practices and intervention programs, the same is not true for mathematics. However, there is much hope as research on math ld is becoming more common.

Are you concerned that you or your child may be displaying signs of a math learning disability? Review our dyscalculia warning signs for Pre K–Grade 2, Grades 3–8, Grades 9–12, and college students and adults. Visit our Interactive LD Checklist of Signs and Symptoms for more information on learning disability warning signs in all areas of development and learning.