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Dyscalculia

What’s the Difference Between Dyscalculia and Math Troubles Associated With Dyslexia and Dyspraxia?

By Sheldon Horowitz

What’s the difference between dyscalculia and math troubles associated with dyslexia and dyspraxia?

Sheldon Horowitz

Senior Director, Learning Resources & Research, National Center for Learning Disabilities

Imagine a chart with three columns, labeled dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia. In each column are listed the specific types of difficulties associated with it.

What you’d notice right away is that there’s some overlap among the columns. Some symptoms only appear in one column, while others appear in more than one. Each of these conditions is different in some significant way, but there’s a lot of overlap.

You can use taking notes in math class or copying from the board as an example:

  • Children with dyslexia may struggle to listen to the teacher and write at the same time. They may struggle with spelling. They might write important terms incorrectly, making it impossible for them to use their notes at home to complete math homework assignments or study for math tests.
  • Children with dyspraxia may also struggle with writing and copying tasks. They may struggle to keep within the lines and columns while doing calculations or drawing figures. They may have poor visual-spatial skills. This leads to trouble with organizing work in ways that demonstrate what they know.
  • Children with either dyslexia or dyscalculia will likely have trouble with the “language” of math. This makes it difficult to figure out the question they're being asked. It also makes it hard to understand the nature of the problem that needs to be solved.

Keep in mind that while kids might struggle with math for different reasons, the treatment approaches might be similar or even the same. What helps students with these issues? The right types of instruction, targeted intervention and feedback, and opportunities to self-correct their work. Appropriate accommodations are also crucial. With these supports, individuals with any of these issues can almost always overcome their troubles in math.

About the Author

Portrait of Sheldon Horowitz

Sheldon Horowitz

Sheldon H. Horowitz, Ed.D., is senior director of learning resources and research at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

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