Dyscalculia, like dyslexia, is one of the specific learning disorders. Although it is less known than the latter pathology, it affects almost the same number of people. Its pervasiveness is estimated to be between 5 and 10% of the population.
This chronic condition usually shows up during childhood. It has a great impact on the life of those who suffer from it since it makes any task that requires the use of mathematics, even if it is something simple, impossible.
What is dyscalculia?
Dyscalculia, as we have already noted, is a learning disorder. In this case, what happens is that the acquisition of mathematical skills is affected. It is not about mental retardation; in fact, intelligence is usually normal according to the coefficients.
That is, the difficulty becomes noticeable in any area of mathematics, from adding and subtracting to more complex calculations or equations. This is not limited to school subjects but applies in many other areas of life.
People with dyscalculia may find it difficult to perform tasks such as shopping or cooking. It is difficult for them to estimate the time, the distance of something, or remember data with numbers.
Also, many of them do not understand the concepts of major and minor. They do not know how to identify numbers with the word in some cases: for example, 2 with two.
Causes of dyscalculia
Unfortunately, dyscalculia has been a poorly researched disorder throughout history. However, in recent years great strides have been made, and many aspects have been discovered.
Thanks to neuroimaging techniques and knowledge about genetics, this disorder’s possible origin have begun to be observed. The researchers do not know the precise reason. They believe that, in part, it is due to differences in the structure and functioning of the brain.
First of all, it is thought that certain genes may be determining factors in their development. A review article published by the University of Psychology of Colombia points out that one of the related ones is the MYO18B gene. This data is also supported by the fact that the disorder often occurs in different members of the same family and twin brothers.
On the other hand, certain changes in brain anatomy can be causal. It has been seen that in most children with dyscalculia, there are areas of the brain affected, such as the parietal lobe and some regions of the left hemisphere.
What types of dyscalculia are there?
Not all people with dyscalculia have difficulty with the same tasks. This varies depending on which areas of the brain are involved. In this way, we find the following types:
- Lexical: it consists of the difficulty of reading the mathematical symbols.
- Verbal: prevents naming quantities, terms, and mathematical symbols.
- Graphic: what cannot be written is neither the figures nor the signs.
- Operational: consists of the impossibility of carrying out operations, such as adding or subtracting.
- Practognostic: refers to the inability to manipulate or compare objects mathematically.
How is it treated?
The problem is that, to date, no exact solution is known for this pathology. Also, in many people, it coexists with other disorders, such as attention deficit or anxiety.
As it is a condition that is usually detected during childhood, the first challenge is to ensure that these people have adapted teaching. They should not be marginalized but should be given support and options to manage certain situations.
Today, technology is mostly used to help patients. There are different applications and graphic tools that are very useful. In the case of children, multisensory instruction is used.
It is a teaching method that combines all the senses to understand certain mathematical symbols and numbers. Similarly, they must be taught to relate the concepts. For example, it is helping them understand number 2 by taking two steps or two claps.
To remember the disorder
What we must bear in mind is that this disorder is quite common. It can affect everything related to mathematics, from difficulty naming quantities to not writing numbers or signs.
The treatment of dyscalculia is complex. It must be approached in a multidisciplinary way and managed by specialists, including teachers who, from infancy, try to help children understand certain useful and necessary concepts on a day-to-day basis.