Dyscalculia is a learning disability that specifically affects the ability to acquire arithmetic skills. This includes problems learning number facts and procedures, and difficulties understanding simple number concepts.

Dyscalculia often appears in conjunction with dyslexia.

Dyscalculia is not very well known, including among parents and teachers who might be the first to notice an issue. Often, it is assumed that if a person has dyslexia then that is what is causing their math difficulties.

Dyscalculia is poorly defined. It’s a specific learning difficulty that’s still very new in terms of research and study. That means that the specifics of what is and isn’t dyscalculia are still being debated.

How dyscalculia can look to others

The precise effects of dyscalculia are different for every person with the diagnosis. However, there are frequently appearing difficulties for people who have dyscalculia. Some of those are:

  • difficulty counting backwards

  • difficulty remembering number ‘facts’, even with hours of practise

  • forgets mathematical procedures, such as how to calculate a multiple-step maths problem

  • weak mental arithmetic skills

  • very little sense of whether guessed answers are right or nearly right.

A person with dyscalculia will have trouble with arithmetic that is distinctly below what is expected for their age, and not because of poor education or intellectual impairment.

Life with dyscalculia

As you can imagine, having these sorts of difficulties can make school, uni and work really hard. That can then lead to disruptive behaviour, dropping out, and stress and isolation.

It is essential to have dyscalculia diagnosed by health professionals with expertise in learning disabilities. That way, strategies can be put in place to ensure a young person with dyscalculia can achieve their full potential.

Learn more about dyscalculia and how you can help to provide a supportive environment at work and school in our other factsheets and at www.deardyslexic.com

Download Dyscalculia, what is it Factsheet


Reviewed by Dr. Nola Firth, Honorary Research Fellow: The University of Melbourne and Centre for Adolescent Health, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.