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What Is Dyscalculia?

By Anna Witkin |
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Dyscalculia has been estimated to affect between 3-6% of school-aged children, but diagnostic ambiguity makes it difficult to ascertain the true prevalence (Auerbach et al., 2001, p. S58). While studies suggest dyslexia and dyscalculia may be equally common, there is much less awareness of, and research devoted to dyscalculia. This may be in part because for many people, strong math skills are not required after high school, whereas reading impairments can continue to impact day-to-day life through adulthood.

The DSM-5 does not define the term dyscalculia but defines an SLD in mathematics as an impediment to the ability to learn math due to some combination of difficulty with arithmetic memorization, number sense, fluency of calculations, and capacity for math reasoning.

To meet criteria for this SLD, the impairment must be sufficient to cause the student to perform significantly behind their grade level in math for at least 6 months and persist even after receiving targeted help. These difficulties must not be better explained by lack of proper instruction, other developmental disability, or other neurologic or sensory deficits.

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Anna Witkin

Anna Witkin is a contributing writer for Polygon. Anna holds a BA from UC Berkeley, a Masters in Biomedical Science from Tufts, and researched ADHD and other learning differences during her time at Dartmouth School of Medicine studying for her MD.