The difference between dyslexia and dyscalculia

Both dyslexia and dyscalculia can make it hard to learn math. It’s possible to have both, but they’re very different.

Dyslexia is better known than dyscalculia. That may be why some people call dyscalculia “math dyslexia.” This nickname isn’t accurate, though. Dyscalculia is not dyslexia in math. See this chart to learn more.




What is it?

A learning difference that mainly involves difficulty with reading. Dyslexia can affect writing and spelling, too. It can also impact math.

A learning difference that causes trouble with making sense of numbers and math concepts.

Signs you may notice

Struggles with reading

Has trouble sounding out words

Has difficulty memorizing sight words

Doesn’t remember items on a shopping list, phone numbers, or game scores (has trouble with working memory)

Avoids reading aloud

Has poor spelling and grammar

Doesn’t understand what’s read

Confuses the order of letters

Spells the same word differently in the same essay

Has trouble learning to count

Has trouble doing basic computation

Doesn’t automatically recall math facts

Doesn’t “get” math concepts like “greater than” and “less than”

Struggles to make sense of graphs and charts

Doesn’t remember items on a shopping list, phone numbers, or game scores (has trouble with working memory)

Avoids games that involve numbers and counting, like Candy Land

Still uses fingers to count, even after being taught other approaches

Struggles to apply math skills in daily life, like making change or figuring out a tip

Possible social and emotional impact

Struggling with reading can make kids feel inferior to their peers and can impact self-esteem. Kids with dyslexia may be embarrassed to read aloud.

Kids with dyslexia may have a hard time understanding jokes or sarcasm. Taking extra time to come up with words or to answer questions can make fitting in hard, too. Learn more about how dyslexia can impact kids’ social life.

Ongoing trouble with math can shake kids’ confidence. That can make them question their abilities in other subject areas.

Kids might also avoid playing games or sports that involve math and keeping score. See more ways dyscalculia can affect kids’ social life.

Specialized instruction or technology that can help

Specific instruction on identifying sounds, understanding how letters represent sounds in speech, and decoding words

Specialized instruction, either one-on-one or in a small group

A reading program that focuses on using all the senses to learn (multisensory approach)

Text-to-speech tools

Specific instruction on learning and retrieving math facts

Being taught strategies and how to apply them to different math problems

Specialized instruction, either one-on-one or in a small group

Tutoring or teaching with a multisensory approach (can help kids find different ways to grasp and use math concepts)

Hands-on math tools like a multiplication pegboard

Accommodations that can help

Extra time on tests

Extra time for reading and writing

Access to the teacher’s notes from the lesson to reduce the amount of note-taking

Simplified directions

Using audiobooks

Shortened assignments

Pictures of directions and schedules

Giving sentence starters so kids know how to begin a written response

Letting students show understanding in different ways (oral reports, video presentations, etc.)

Letting students respond in different ways, like answering verbally, having larger spaces for writing, or circling answers instead of filling in blanks

Extra time on tests

Access to a chart of math facts or multiplication tables

Using a calculator when not being tested on computation

Having worksheets broken down into sections

Using manipulatives like coins and blocks for in-class learning

Graph paper to line up numbers and problems

Access to a list of math formulas taught in class

Separate worksheets for word problems and number problems

Highlighting key words and numbers on word problems

Daily review of math skills; pre-teaching new and important concepts

What you can do at home

Read aloud often.

Encourage your child to listen to audiobooks.

Use technology to help with reading.

For younger kids, recite nursery rhymes and sing memory songs.

Explore more ways to help kids with dyslexia at home.

Use small objects, such as cereal pieces, to solve simple math problems.

Introduce board games, card games, and computer games that provide math practice.

Break down math homework into smaller, more manageable chunks. For example, have your child do five problems, take a short break, then move on to the next five.

Explore more ways to help kids with dyscalculia at home.

Find out what to do if you think your child has dyslexia or dyscalculia. No matter what’s causing your child’s difficulty, there are lots of ways to help your child thrive.


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