Math Monday: Dyscalculia! AKA, something you’ve never heard of.

If you’ve never seen or heard of the word ‘dyscalculia’, you’re not alone. Until 3 years ago, I didn’t even know what it was, and I have it! It’s one of those lesser known learning differences and has to do with math. Specifically:

The word dyscalculia comes from Greek and Latin which means: “counting badly”. The prefix “dys” comes from Greek and means “badly”. “Calculia” comes from the Latin “calculare”. which means “to count”. That word “calculare” again comes from “calculus”, which means “pebble” or one of the counters on an abacus.

No matter how many times I read that definition, I always laugh. The fact that I’ve always counted badly is underscored by a diagnosible LD that means counting badly. So yes, let there be no mistake, dyscalculia is a form of badly counting. I have it, Naturalist has it, and they estimate about 5% of the population has it. Schools will rarely use the term, but may call it ‘deficiency with numbers’ or something like that.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of symptoms, there are some more here and here

Just like no one “knew” about dyslexia back 20 years or so ago, I think this is one of the ‘unknown’ LD that can wreak havoc on the confidence and self esteem of the person who has it. It’s one of the reasons why I’m devoted to making math accesible and not scary…to myself, Naturalist, and you, gentle reader. 🙂 I want to highlight this particular label in case there is anyone out there like me, who dealt with it without knowing what “it” was–just feeling stupid, uncomfortable, and incompetent around using numbers and in other parts of daily life.

There was a recent article in NewScientist that is one of the best I’ve read that highlights dyscalculia, and is worth a look even if you (or someone you know) doesn’t have it. It is a fascinating read that delves into number theory and the different theories as to how it develops (or, fails to develop). Read it here.

Great videos made by people who live with dyscalculia (I think Naturalist and I should make one of our own!)

Dyscalculia: The Devil & His Reign of Mathematics Terror 🙂

My Disabilities and Me 1 : Dyscalculia
(My favorite, favorite video about living with dyscalculia, made even more charming with a Welsh accent)

And finally, a fantastic forum all about dyscalculia, with a wonderful discussion form that is a great place for support (both for kids with dyscalculia and their parents):