Understanding Dyscalculia – Part 2

In our previous blog, an expansive amount of information was provided to help you (as a tutor or parent) to identify the symptoms of dyscalculia. Unfortunately, dyscalculia has also been known to affect other aspects of learner’s lives.

Other effects of dyscalculia include:

  • Social skills:Failing repeatedly in math class can cause your learner to assume failure is unavoidable in other areas too. Low self-esteem can affect your learner’s inclination to make new friends or to partake in afterschool activities. Some learners might also avoid playing games and sports that involve math and keeping score.
  • Sense of direction:Some learners might struggle to differentiate left from right and may have trouble getting places by reading maps or following directions. Some learners with dyscalculia cannot picture things in their minds.
  • Physical coordination:Dyscalculia can affect how the brain and eyes work together. Because of this, your learner may have problems judging distances between objects. Certain learners may seem clumsier than others the same age.
  • Money management:Dyscalculia can make it difficult to stick to a budget, to balance a checkbook, and to estimate costs. It can also make it hard to calculate a tip and count exact change.
  • Time management:Dyscalculia can affect your learner’s ability to measure quantities, including units of time. Learners may have trouble assessing how long a minute is or to keep track of how much time has passed. This can make it hard to stick to a schedule.
  • Other skills:A learner may have trouble figuring out how much of an ingredient to use in a recipe. Learners might have a hard time estimating how fast another car is moving or how far away it is.

There are various other learning disabilities that are SOMETIMES associated with dyscalculia:

  • Dyslexia, or difficulty reading
  • Attention difficulties
  • Spatial difficulties (not good at drawing, visualisation, remembering arrangements of objects, understanding time/direction)
  • Short term memory difficulties (the literature on the relation between these and dyscalculia is very controversial)
  • Poor coordination of movement (dyspraxia)

Because there is still so much we do not know about dyscalculia, no definitive cause has been found. However, there are some ideas that researchers are still studying.

Possible Causes of Dyscalculia:

  • Genes and heredity:Studies of dyscalculia show it is more common in some families than others are. Researchers have found that a child with dyscalculia often has a parent or sibling with similar math issues. So dyscalculia may be genetic
  • Brain development:Researchers are using modern brain imaging tools to study the brains of people with and without math issues. What we learn from this research will help us understand how to help learners with dyscalculia. Some studies have also found differences in the surface area, thickness and volume of parts of the brain. Those areas are linked to learning and memory, setting up and monitoring tasks and remembering math facts
  • Environment:Dyscalculia has been linked to contact with alcohol in the womb. Prematurity and low birth weight may also play a role in dyscalculia.
  • Brain injury:Some studies show that injury to certain parts of the brain can result in what researchers call “acquired dyscalculia.”

The most plausible cause for dyscalculia is due to a difference in brain function. Unfortunately, many people think that because it is in the brain, it cannot be changed but this is not true. There are many support systems and tutors available to help your leaner cope with their dyscalculia.

What Does This Mean?

The brain is a highly adaptable organ (most especially during childhood) and research has indicated that certain training programs can increase the functioning in brain areas involved with reading, and so researches are hopeful that the same is applicable for mathematics. For children with dyscalculia, it is unclear how much of their brain differences are shaped by genetics and how much by their experiences. Researchers are trying to learn if certain interventions for dyscalculia can “rewire” a learner’s brain to make math easier. This concept is known as “neuroplasticity” and has been shown to work in people with dyslexia.

What Do I Do?

If during your tutoring sessions, you suspect that your learner may be suffering from dyscalculia, it is your responsibility to keep record of your tutee’s difficulties. You then need to communicate your thoughts to your learner’s parents. The learner’s parents should discuss any concerns with the learner’s teachers who will ascribe a school therapist or specialist. The specialist will ask you, the tutor, the parents and the teachers various questions as well as chat to the learner to discern whether the learner does in fact have dyscalculia or perhaps a different learning disability.

If your learner does have dyscalculia, there are many things that you can implement and do during your tutoring sessions to help him or her with their studies and academic outlook. Our next blog will list important hints and helpful tips to use during your tutoring sessions (or as a parent) J!

If you would like a tutor to assist your child or learner, contact BrightSparkz Tutors today!