7 common myths about dyscalculia

By Amanda Morin

Expert reviewed by Daniel Ansari, PhD

An adult and a child stack coins on a table from a jar.

There’s not as much research on dyscalculia as there is on other learning and thinking differences, like or . But there’s a lot that researchers do know.

Here’s the truth behind seven dyscalculia myths.

Myth #1: Dyscalculia isn’t very common.

Fact: Dyscalculia isn’t talked about as much as other learning differences like dyslexia. But that doesn’t mean it’s uncommon. In fact, experts say dyscalculia may be just as common as dyslexia. They also often co-occur.

Myth #2: Dyscalculia is “math dyslexia.”

Fact: People often use other terms when they refer to dyscalculia. Number dyslexia is one. Math dyslexia is another.

This may be because people think dyscalculia is all about reversing numbers. But dyslexia typically isn’t about reversing letters. And dyscalculia is something else, too.

Dyscalculia causes people to have a hard time with number sense and other math concepts. It’s very different from dyslexia, which is a learning disability in reading.

Myth #3: Kids with dyscalculia are “just being lazy.”

Fact: Kids don’t have dyscalculia because they’re not trying hard enough. In fact, many kids with dyscalculia are trying as hard as they can to get better at math.

We don’t know for sure what causes dyscalculia. But research shows it’s related to differences in the brain — differences that kids can’t control.

Dyscalculia tends to run in families. And that means that genes could play a role, too.

Myth #4: Dyscalculia doesn’t show up until grade school.

Fact: Signs of dyscalculia can show up as early as preschool. That’s because dyscalculia can affect basic math skills like counting and recognizing patterns.

Dyscalculia can also make it hard for kids to connect a number to an object. For example, kids may not understand that the number “5” can apply to any group of things, like 5 cookies, 5 cars, or 5 blocks.

Myth #5: All kids with dyscalculia have the same difficulties with math.

Fact: Dyscalculia can look different in every child. One child’s trouble spots may not be the same as another child’s.

Some kids have a hard time with . This can make it difficult to do multi-step math problems. Others may have a hard time making sense of the information shown on charts or graphs.

But most kids with dyscalculia do have one thing in common: trouble remembering basic math facts and doing math problems.

Myth #6: Dyscalculia is another name for math anxiety.

Fact: Dyscalculia and math anxiety aren’t the same thing. Many people feel anxious about math, even when they don’t have dyscalculia.

The difference is that people with dyscalculia have a hard time with the skills to do math problems. This may or may not create some anxiety.

Myth #7: Kids with dyscalculia can’t learn math.

Fact: There are two things that can help kids with dyscalculia make progress in math: good instruction and practice.

Many kids learn well from multisensory instruction. This type of teaching uses sight, sound, and touch to help with learning. Also, classroom accommodations and other strategies can help, like using graphic organizers.

Want to know more about dyscalculia?

About the author

About the author

Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days. 

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Daniel Ansari, PhD is a professor in developmental cognitive neuroscience at Western University, Canada.


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