Saying dyslexia, dyscalculia, & dysgraphia in schools

an Interview with Michael Yudin, Assistant Secretary of Special Education & Rehab Services (2015)

National Institutes of Health on Dyscalculia Diagnosis & Management (2012)


Dyscalculia is a math learning disorder that makes mathematical reasoning and computation difficult, in spite of adequate education, average or greater intelligence, and proper motivation.
It appears as poor memory for numbers, time, sequences, directions, layouts, and visual-spatial information, as well as a confounding inability to manage these things.
Dyscalculia is believed to affect 3% to 7% to 26% of the population.
For people with dyscalculia, performing number-related tasks produces mental confusion, anxiety, and distress.
Dyscalculics often display a lack of academic progress in mathematics, accompanied by average or advanced skills in speech, reading, writing, and other areas.


Specific Learning Disorders (SLDs) are defined in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.
"Specific Learning Disorder-- with impairment in Mathematics (315.1), Reading (315.0), or Written Expression (315.2). SLD is "a neurodevelopmental disorder of biological origin manifested in learning difficulties 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."


1. CALCULATOR A calculator allows the student to focus on problem-solving.
Calculation is hindered by poor and inconsistent retrieval of facts, and unconscious errors when thinking and writing.
A calculator cannot fix unconscious errors in reading, writing, and reasoning (ex. number and sign mix-ups).
2. MONITOR It helps to have an external editor or monitor to catch and point out unconscious errors.
3. 1:1 PERFORMANCE Because of the need for a monitor, it is essential to have the student perform individually with the instructor, instead of in a group situation.
4. AUTHENTIC ASSESSMENTS Instead of traditional paper math tests, the dyscalculic should demonstrate understanding by teaching the concepts adequately and successfully.'
A demonstration will show what, why, how, and when, with these forms of explanation: verbal (focus on key vocabulary), visual (physical, color, illustrations).
Examples: video, illustrated study guide, book, show-and-tell.
5. REMOVE TIME CONSTRAINTS The dyscalculic is quickly overwhelmed by compounding demands.
The awareness of time running out, adds additional stress, and further impairs functioning.
Deficiencies that compound to impair performance: retrieval of learned facts and procedures; ability to apply learned facts and procedures to new situations; processing speed; working memory; visual-spatial-directional-sequential processing; procedural memory; and monitoring.

Academic Adjustments

When accommodations don't result in success, after earnest effort is demonstrated, an instructor may grade on work attempted, time on task, persistence, and attitude.
Ultimately, the instructor should document the experience, citing the learning difficulties, student characteristics, interventions, and results and performance data; and then recommend a waiver of a requirement (and all prerequisites).

Math Ed Improvement Courses

YouCubed @ Stanford University

Visual, Creative, Math Instruction by Dr. Jo Boaler

Mahesh Sharma's Language of Math Blog & Dyscalculia Workshops

Judy Willis, MD,

MEd Neurologist & Teacher RAD Learning, Author of Learning to Love Math

Learning How to Learn

by Dr. Barbra Oakley at University of California-San Diego [TedTalk]

Dr. Steve Chinn's Math Visualizations

Karismath Grades 1-5 Math Lessons for Dyscalculics

Introduction to Mathematical Thinking

by Dr. Keith Devlin at Stanford University

Dyscalculia Signs

1. random number and symbol mixups when reading, thinking, copying, writing, speaking, and remembering
2. unreliable memory of numbers, math facts, rules, and procedures
3. exerts inordinate effort, buts gets disappointing results
4. unable to do mental figuring
5. uses fingers or marks to calculate
6. quickly experiences frustration, tears, mind-freeze, distress, anxiety, panic, trauma, and avoidance
7. struggles with handling money
8. struggles to make change, figure tax, tips, discounts, and conversions
9. poor money planning, and management
10. avoids cash
11. struggles with telling time, tracking and managing time, and punctuality
12. experiences directional confusion during math tasks, when navigating inside buildings and across town, and during physical sequences (dance steps, sports, playing music, playing games,combination lock, following physical directions).
13. can follow patterns and complete math work, but quickly forgets
14. operates from fleeting memory, but lacks deep understanding
15. reasons aloud to keep ideas in mind
16. has difficulty imagining abstractions, quantities, layouts, clocks, faces, numbers, and figures
17. difficulty processing more than 4 visual items
18. visual-spatial processing difficulties
19. experiences brain static with number lines, equations, large numbers, decimal numbers, graphs and coordinates, clocks, ten frames, abacuses, cuisenaire rods, unifix cubes, ans manipulatives
20. needs small recognizable patterns
21. inefficient visual memory for keyboarding, learning to play an instrument, sight-reading music, cards and dominos with more than 5 dots
22. impaired feedback from fingers (finger sense)
23. inefficient motor-sequencing 24. insufficient working memory needed for simultaneous processing, compounding task demands, retention of serial information (counting, listening to and following directions), keeping track during math work)
25. imperfect sequential memory, especially when distracted, and beyond 5 items

Dyscalculic Errors

1. Reading one number but saying a different one.
2. Copying errors.
3. Reading errors.
4. Operational mix-ups (seeing the subtraction sign, but adding anyway).
5. Reasoning errors (finding the difference between two digits, instead of subtracting).
6. Knowing exactly which number to write, but writing a number not intended (ex. writing 1,000 instead of 100,000).

Dyscalculia in Children

Young children struggle with these:
1. left and right
2. directionality
3. counting reliably
4. number-amount associations
5. memory of numbers and quantitative information
6. memory of instructions
7. short-term memory (working memory)
8. time awareness, telling time, time management, schedules, organization, sequencing
9. procedures for arithmetic
10. place value
11. memory of addition and multiplication facts
12. memory of math rules, mental arithmetic
13. visualization
14. name-face memory
15. visual memory
16. visual-spatial discrimination, interpretation, processing, and memory.
17. They make unconscious errors with numbers and symbols when reading, listening, thinking (reasoning), copying, writing, and speaking.
18. When doing math, they think slowly and carefully, and operate without confidence.
19. When tasked in their deficit areas, children may demonstrate agitation, distress, anxiety, anger, avoidance, and resistance.
20. Children grow into dyscalculic adults who exhibit the same problems, but become better at hiding and managing their difficulties.

157 Books on Dyscalculia

Dyscalculia Books

Untether by JT Metsdagh- learn how JT triumphed over severe dyslexia and major health threats to graduate college, climb mountains, and write a book!


Inspiration for Living Free and Strong, No Matter What the Challenge by JT Mestdagh (2019)
JT graduated college, wrote a book, and climbs mountains, in spite of severe dyslexia and serious health problems!

It Just Doesn't Add Up:

Explaining Dyscalculia and Overcoming Number Problems for Children and Adults by Paul Moorcraft

Why is Math so Hard for Some Children

a book by Daniel Berch and Michele MazzoccoLimitless Mind by Jo Boaler

Mathematical Mindsets

by Jo Boaler

Learning to Love Math

by Judy Willis, Neuroscientist and Classroom Teacher

A Mind for Numbers:

How to learn Math and Science, even if you flunked Algebra by Barbara Oakley.

Dyscalculia From Research to Education

by Brian Butterworth (2018)


Break through barriers to learning and discover your hidden potential by Barbara Oakley.

USA Math Stats 2019

Source: Nation's Report Card NEAP Results

12th Grade

2015 NEAP

8th Grade

  • 10% ADVANCED

4th Grade