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EDUCATION REPORT - Learning Disabilities, Part 5: Dyscalculia - 2004-03-03

Broadcast: March 4, 2004

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Education Report.

We continue our series about learning disabilities. So far, we have talked about problems with skills like reading, writing and movement. Today we tell about a condition called dyscalculia. People with dyscalculia have unusual difficulty working with numbers.

Experts say people with this disorder have trouble reading numbers and seeing them in their mind. They can have problems with similar numbers like three and eight. They also have trouble lining up numbers correctly on paper. Another problem is that people with dyscalculia may have difficulty remembering. So they cannot remember the order of operations they must follow to solve a mathematics problem.

Such difficulties can lead to failure in school, which can lead to a fear of mathematics. Students may believe they cannot do math at all.

Experts say dyscalculia cannot be cured, but children can be helped. Teachers and parents need to recognize the signs of the condition. These include such things as making mistakes when writing groups of numbers. Another possible sign is performing mathematical operations backwards. Still another is reading numbers in the wrong order or becoming confused about the order of past or future events.

Older students may show difficulty counting money. They might not be able to understand the rules and ideas of mathematics. They might perform a mathematical operation one day, but not the next. People with dyscalculia may also have a poor sense of direction and get lost often. They may have difficulty keeping score during games, and limited ability to plan during games like chess.

Adults can provide extra help with math problems for students with dyscalculia. For example, a picture might help explain the situation being described. Rhymes or songs or other memory aids might help students remember things. Students with dyscalculia could use extra time to learn facts and take examinations. Using a calculator or computer might also help.

We continue our series about learning disabilities next week. All of our programs are on the Internet at Links to more information about dyscalculia are also included.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Steve Ember.