What Is a Math Learning Disability?

Marjorie McAtee
Marjorie McAtee
Tutors may help individuals who have a math learning disability.
Tutors may help individuals who have a math learning disability.

A math learning disability is a type of learning disability that generally impacts a person's ability to understand how numerical symbols equate to real-life quantities. Someone who has a math learning disability will also typically have problems learning to identify numerical symbols, remembering numbers or strings of numbers, following thought processes that require abstract logic, counting, and learning basic math skills. Children who have this type of learning disability may not do well at strategy-based games, may have problems understanding units of measurement, and will generally struggle with mathematical concepts and terms. In adulthood, a math learning disability can make budgeting, saving and other basic financial skills difficult. People with this type of learning disability may have trouble keeping themselves organized, maintaining a schedule, estimating time, performing basic math functions mentally, or following basic logic.

Children with learning disabilities in math will usually begin to show symptoms at an early age.
Children with learning disabilities in math will usually begin to show symptoms at an early age.

Children with learning disabilities in basic mathematics will generally begin to show symptoms at an early age. They will often have problems learning to count and may struggle with simple organizational tasks. Some will struggle to learn, write, remember, and identify numerical symbols.

Those who struggle with a math learning disability can often overcome it when assisted by teaching techniques that frame basic mathematical skills in a way different from that used with non-math disabled students. A math learning disability can make the memorization of basic mathematical principles and functions difficult, so concepts such as multiplication tables may need to be taught in a different way. These students will often need extra help learning how to guess and estimate, and they may struggle with the transition from concrete to abstract thinking. Mathematical concepts can be made easier to understand by clear and repeated explanations.

Students with dyscalculia may be unable to memorize multiplication tables.
Students with dyscalculia may be unable to memorize multiplication tables.

Different students will generally need different treatment plans, since the effects of a math learning disability can vary widely from one person to another. Psychological evaluations are generally used to pinpoint the student's strengths and weaknesses so that tutoring help can be tailored to suit individual needs.

Experts believe that math learning disability, sometimes known as dyscalculia, may occur because people with this disability have trouble processing input from both the ears and eyes. Their brains may deal differently with spoken language and visual input. Some people with this type of disability have problems with both visual and language processing, while others have problems in just one area. Experts aren't sure what causes this type of learning disability, but believe it may have to do with a combination of developmental delays and genetic factors.

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    • Tutors may help individuals who have a math learning disability.
      Tutors may help individuals who have a math learning disability.
    • Children with learning disabilities in math will usually begin to show symptoms at an early age.
      Children with learning disabilities in math will usually begin to show symptoms at an early age.
    • Students with dyscalculia may be unable to memorize multiplication tables.
      Students with dyscalculia may be unable to memorize multiplication tables.
    • Different students will generally need different treatment plans for their math learning disability.
      Different students will generally need different treatment plans for their math learning disability.
    • The effects of a math learning disability can vary widely from one person to another.
      The effects of a math learning disability can vary widely from one person to another.