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Definition and symptoms

Definition and prerequisites or precursors of mathematical skills


In the DSM-V (Diagnostic Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders) Dyscalculia is included into the Neurodevelopmental disorders. In particular, into Specific learning disorder, defined as“neurodevelopmental disorder of biological origin manifested in learning difficults and problems in acquiring academic skills markedly below age level and manifested in the early school years, lasting for at least 6 months; not attributed to intellectual disabilities, developmental disorders, or neurological or motor disorders”

“Developmental Dyscalculia (DD) is a specific learning disorder that is characterised by impairments in learning basic arithmetic facts, processing numerical magnitude and performing accurate and fluent calculations. These difficulties must be quantifiably below what is expected for an individual’s chronological age, and must not be caused by poor educational or daily activities or by intellectual impairments.Because definitions and diagnoses of dyscalculia are in their infancy and sometimes contradictory, it is difficult to suggest a prevalence, but research suggests it is around 5%. However, ‘mathematical learning difficulties’ are certainly not in their infancy and are very prevalent and often devastating in their impact on schooling, further and higher education and jobs. Prevalence in the UK is at least 25%. Developmental Dyscalculia often occurs in association with other developmental disorders such as dyslexia or ADHD/ADD. Co-occurrence of learning disorders appears to be the rule rather than the exception. Co-occurrence is generally assumed to be a consequence of risk factors that are shared between disorders, for example, working memory. However, it should not be assumed that all dyslexics have problems with mathematics, although the percentage may be very high, or that all dyscalculics have problems with reading and writing. This latter rate of co-occurrence may well be a much lower percentage.” (British Dyslexia Association)

Some students understand the logic behind the math but they are not sure how and when to apply their knowledge to solving problems.
These characteristics can bring the students to low self-esteem and anxiety.
Dyscalculia could be a lifelong condition, but children can have a happy and successful school life if parents and teachers take into account these characteristics.

Logical mathematical prerequisites

Lexical processes
•    Counting: children with dyscalculia did less well than controlson a working memory task involving counting(Siegel and Ryan)
•    increase in number: counting by two/three/…. (i.e. counting by two: 2-4-6-8-10-…)
•    regressive counting: counting down (i.e counting down from 10: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1)
•    numberwriting
•    numberreading

Semantic processes
•    quantity comparison: comparing amounts and numbers (n1  is less than/more than/the same as n2
•    subitizing: the ability of recognizing number of briefly presented items without counting (from latin Language “subito” that means “suddenly”)
•    recognition of numerical increase by adding quantity

Syntactic processes
•    classification: means putting objects into groups (classes) based on some property they have. This skill is important in geometry.
•    seriation (ordering numbers ascending and descending)

Warning Signs and Symptoms

Warning Signs in Preschool or Kindergarten. Difficulties in:
•    learning to count
•    recognizing number symbols
•    connecting a number to a real-life situation
•    remembering numbers
•    recognizing patterns and sort items by size, shape or color

Warning Signs in Grade School or Middle School. Difficulties in:
•    recognizing numbers and symbols and using them correctly
•    learning and recalling basic math facts
•    counting using sophisticated strategies (they use fingers)
•    writing numerals clearly or putting them in the correct column
•    coming up with a plan to solve a math problem
•    understanding words related to math

The main signs are difficulties in:
•    learning to count
•    recognizing and memorizing numbers
•    Connecting number to a real quantity
•    organizing things in a logical way
•    solve addition, subtraction, multiplication, and/or division
•    problem-solving abilities
•    doing math operations
•    learning and using math vocabulary
•    measuring objects or playing strategic games
•    managing budget or account
•    learningmathconcepts
•    concept of time
•    sense of direction (left/right)
•    mental calculations and/or estimation