What Is a Specific Mathematics Disability?

By Sheldon Horowitz

What is a specific mathematics disability?

Sheldon Horowitz

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

You may hear the terms “specific math disability,” “specific learning disability in math” or “dyscalculia.” These terms all refer to a type of disorder that significantly impacts a person’s ability to learn and perform in math.

There is no single profile of this disability. The signs of dyscalculia will vary from person to person. And they will affect people differently at different times in their lives.

Some people with dyscalculia have no trouble memorizing basic math facts. It’s performing calculations and solving problems that cause trouble. Others struggle with calculation and basic math operations like multiplication and division. But they can grasp the big concepts and easily understand how a problem can be solved.

Disabilities in math are often missed in the early years because kids are learning many basic skills through memorization. Young kids with dyslexia can often memorize their ABCs. But they might not understand the complex relationship between letters and sounds. Similarly, kids with dyscalculia may be able to memorize and recite their 1-2-3s. But they may not be building the “number sense” that is essential to future math learning.

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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