Dyscalculia: The Unaccounted for Disability

Far too often, children and adults alike say, “I can’t do math.” The truth is, anyone can learn math if they have the right practices and learning aids in place. Those who believe they are unable to understand and/or perform mathematical operations likely have dyscalculia, a specific learning disability.  

What Is Dyscalculia? 

Dyscalculia is a learning disability that affects one’s ability to learn mathematics, as compared to same age peers who receive identical instruction. It may cause difficulty with counting, working memory for numbers, ability to recognize patterns, time, sense of direction, estimation of distance and volume, math facts, and procedures. Dyscalculia is a lifelong condition that can impact academic and economic progress as well as self-esteem.  
Dyscalculia can be classified as a disability under both the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which may qualify them to receive accommodations in school via an IEP.  

Dyscalculia Statistics

This math learning disability is prevalent in classrooms around the world, yet dyscalculia is not nearly as well-known as dyslexia.  

  • Research says between 5% and 7% of students worldwide have dyscalculia. 
  • At least one to two students in every classroom around the world have dyscalculia. 
  • 105 million+ students globally have this math learning disability.
  • This translates to 3 million+ students in the United States alone.


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Common Signs of Dyscalculia 

While research on this math learning disability is still decades behind where it should be, we do have a better understanding of the common signs of dyscalculia. Students with dyscalculia may exhibit one or more of the symptoms: 

  • Difficulty developing number and quantity (number sense and base ten) 
  • Problems with place value, transposing numbers, understanding arithmetical operations (adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing)  
  • Inability to grasp and remember mathematical concepts, rules, formulas, and sequences 
  • Inability to memorize numerical facts 
  • Inconsistent results in calculation 
  • Struggles performing mental math 
  • Counting on one’s fingers after expected age/grade 
  • Difficulty estimating time, distance and volume 
  • Difficulty using analog clocks and maps 
  • Challenges with money-related tasks such as making change, calculating tips, or estimating sale prices 

Dyscalculia Affects Students in and out of the Classroom

Dyscalculia is more than a learning disorder that makes it difficult for students to complete mathematical computations. Without the right practices and tools in place to help in the classroom, students and adults with dyscalculia may face some of the following:

  • Inside the Classroom
  • Difficulty completing assignments
  • Confusing order of operations
  • Struggling to apply concepts, rules, formulas, and/or sequence
  • Inability to use mental math during lessons or on homework assignments/tests
  • Outside the Classroom
  • Difficulty using analog clocks and maps
  • Unable to estimate remaining time or distance left
  • Inability to guess remaining volume of containers for storing liquids/solids
  • Challenges with estimating sale prices, calculating tips, and/or making change

How Does TouchMath Help Students with Dyscalculia? 

TouchMath is an evidence based, multi-sensory approach to mathematics that can help students when other learning solutions fail. If a student suffers from dyscalculia, they can still succeed in mathematics.  

  1. TouchMath focuses on all areas of mathematics (basic arithmetic operations, fact retrieval, word problems) via the processing of numbers and quantities. Our entire program is built on CRA and uses the the abstract numeral as a multisensory manipulatives.
  2. The complete product offering from TouchMath offers visual reminders of rules, formulas, and sequences with the supplemental posters and visual prompts in the problems. This helps students with dyscalculia better grasp math rules and formulas. 
  3. The TouchMath curriculum allows students to have more opportunities to practice areas where they are struggling, which is necessary to embed skills and concepts in long term memory.
  4. Each TouchMath unit is supported by skip counting, backwards counting, touchpoints, and/or music as additional instructional or learning strategies to support the student with age respectful content.
  5. All pages of the TouchMath program are kept clean and simple, which helps with the suppression of distracting stimuli. TouchMath Pro allows you to select the number of problems per page.

With the right tools, your struggling students can succeed at math.

TouchMath is Grounded in Research

The TouchMath program is grounded in the Concrete-Representational-Abstract continuum, a sequence of instructional practices and research-based best practices that reflect how most students learn. As students see, say, hear and touch using our signature TouchPoints™ on the numerals, they easily make the connection between the numeral and the quantity it represents.

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