When ‘Careless Mistakes’ Aren’t: Dyscalculia, Math Anxiety, and Learning Strategies That Help
written by Renee HamiltonNewman, M.Ed., M.S.Sp.Ed., posted on Attitude Magazine
Math anxiety is a common and significant hurdle for many students, especially those with dyscalculia, a learning disability that interferes with math comprehension, computation, and other functions.
Though dyscalculia triggers math anxiety and real, detrimental learning consequences, teachers, parents, and even students with dyscalculia seldom fully understand the nature and breadth of the condition.
The truth is that dyscalculia is a collection of problems stemming from deficits related to several brain processes that compound to overwhelm and impair performance. When teachers understand the complexity of the dyscalculic experience, they can begin to teach the subject in ways that make sense to the student (and benefit other students in class who struggle with
With effective and appropriate strategies, teachers can make learning math a positive experience for all types of brains.
Signs & Symptoms of Dyscalculia
Dyscalculia – also known as “math dyslexia,” “math learning disorder,” “specific learning disability in mathematics” and many other names — is characterized by the following difficulties, which result in poor math performance and, often, math anxiety:
 Losing track when counting; using fingers and marks to keep track and count; drawing pictures to reason
 Talking aloud to stay on track
 Trouble with subitizing, or recognizing quantities without counting
 Faulty or inconsistent memory of math facts and procedures
 Insufficient working memory for math (mixes up operations, signs, digits, and ideas; loses track midstream); trouble mentally counting and calculating
 Unconscious number and symbol errors in speech, reading, reasoning, and writing
 Relying on simpler operations (e.g. repeated addition and subtraction instead of multiplication and division, respectively)
 Problems visualizing numbers, shapes, changes in orientation, layouts, and objects in 3D
