Jun 5, 2024 | Neurodiversity

Navigating Numbers: Life with Dyscalculia


Sometimes referred to as “math dyslexia,” dyscalculia is a learning disorder that affects the ability to understand numbers and learn math. The impact of dyscalculia can vary widely from person to person and can have significant effects on academic, social, and emotional aspects of life. 

What is Dyscalculia? 

Individuals who have dyscalculia struggle with numbers and math because “their brains don’t process math-related concepts like the brains of people without this disorder.”  A dyscalculia diagnosis doesn’t indicate an individual’s intelligence or capabilities to succeed.  

Those who have dyscalculia may face mental health issues, especially when they need to do math, like anxiety, depression, frustration, anger, and sadness. Since symptoms typically present in childhood, many adults have undiagnosed dyscalculia. 

Dyscalculia Symptoms 

Symptoms can range depending on age and severity.  

In young children these can include challenges with: 

  • Counting 
  • Connecting a number to the number of an object (such as recognizing the number 5 to how many crayons in front of them) 
  • Recognizing number and math symbols 
  • Organizing numbers 
  • Recognizing and using number lines 
  • Learning to use money 

For school aged children (elementary aged), and when these generally start to get noticed at around age six, symptoms can include challenges with: 

  • Counting on fingers with small numbers  
  • Identifying small quantities of items just by looking  
  • Doing simple calculations from memory 
  • Memorizing multiplication tables 
  • Recognizing the same math problem when the order of the numbers or symbols changes  
  • Understanding word problems or more advanced symbols  
  • Organizing numbers by scale  

In teenagers (junior or high school) and adults, symptoms might look like challenges with: 

  • Counting backward 
  • Solving word problems 
  • Breaking down problems into multiple steps to solve them 
  • Measuring items 
  • Measuring quantities  
  • Using money to pay for items, exchanging bills for coins, and making change 
  • Understanding and converting fractions 

The impact of dyscalculia 

Living with dyscalculia can lead to challenges related to academics, social interactions, and emotional regulation, impacting self-esteem and confidence. Constantly struggling with math can impact financial decisions and everyday tasks and lead to frustration, anxiety, and inadequacy.  

The sooner the symptoms are treated, the more effective treatment can be. For adults, whose brains are fully developed, there are ways to navigate challenges, such as implementing technology or other tools. It is important to reach out to your health care provider to find the resources and support to help. 

Taking a self-assessed Dyscalculia quiz can help you understand certain traits associated with

dyscalculia. Candor Diversity Group offers several self assessment quizzes on our website. These tools can help you identify symptoms that may relate to a particular neurodivergent condition but cannot provide a comprehensive diagnosis. Please consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner if you wish to discuss the results of these assessments.  

With appropriate support, individuals with dyscalculia can develop strategies to manage their challenges and achieve success in both academic and personal undertakings. 

Learn more on this topic

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