Dyscalculia Illustrated shows a young woman's confusion with numbers, symbols, clocks, calendars, combination locks, and math books. by Jo-Ellen Bosson, 2020.


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 those things.
Dyscalculia is believed to affect 6% to 7% of the population, and up to 26%, when weaker forms of arithmetic difficulties are included. Care must be taken to consider the entire body of evidence when assessing for dyscalculia and other disorders. Test scores, alone, are often insufficient.
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. Often, otherwise strong students who work earnestly in Mathematics, recieve "mercy grades" which deceptively indicate content mastery. Passing grades are necessary for acadmemic advancement, but periodic standardized achievement tests reveal skill deficits. Detailed Score Reports from state and national tests can be used to identify and track deficits over time and to plan interventions.


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."
Boy in school showing understanding of math work. Got it! by Jo-Ellen Bosson of NY, Dyscalculia Illustrated, 2020


Calculation is hindered by a lack of deep understanding of the number system; poor and inconsistent retrieval of facts, rules, and procedures; unconscious errors in perception, reasoning, speech, and writing; inefficient processing of visuospatial, directional, and sequential information; impaired ability to visualize; insufficient capacity to hold and manipulate quantitative ideas in mind; compounding cognitive load; and overwhelmed working memory.
1. ACTIVE MODELINGActively model concepts and problems, focus on language, reason aloud, and use a language-enhanced place value chart to hold number information, see number relationships, and free up cognitive resources.
2. MONITOR A monitor points out errors, reorients the student, and allows multiple opportunities to demonstrate and explain ideas. (Error examples: saying one digit but writing another; copying errors; subtracting instead of adding; finding the difference between digits instead of subtracting).
3. 1:1 PERFORMANCE The student performs individually with the instructor instead of independently or in a group. The instructor monitors for, and corrects, unintentional dyscalculic errors and allows the student to: reason aloud; model ideas; illustrate; stand; work on a board; use a language-enhanced place value chart, math visualization apps, and tools to organize information (ex. ruler, color highlighters, erasable color pens, templates, and masking).
4. AUTHENTIC ASSESSMENTS Instead of traditional math tests, the dyscalculic should demonstrate understanding with verbal explanations, illustrations, color-coding to organize elements and operations, avtive modeling, a language-enhanced place value chart, and appropriate math apps or tools. Demonstrations can be live with a teacher or created independently and submitted as a video, presentation, website, PDF, illustrated study guide, or other form.
5. REMOVE TIME CONSTRAINTS, AND DISTRACTIONSA dyscalculic is quickly overwhelmed by compounding demands. Awareness of time running out, adds additional stress, and further impairs functioning. Mask all visual stimuli to reveal only the information at hand. To aid visuospatial perception and processing, use highlighters, rulers, color ink. erasable color pens, and templates.
6. TIME MANAGEMENTUse a silent visual timer to gauge the passage of time, and to establish periodic breaks for physical activity. Log start and stop times and keep a record of time per task to document overall performance speed and to see coorelations between conditions, strategies, and performance.
A calculator cannot mitigate unconscious errors (ex. number and sign mix-ups). Isolate and chunk digits, triple check when reading and copying numbers. Speak numbers aloud to aid monitoring and to improve accuracy. Utilize topic-appropriate math visualization apps.

Academic Adjustments

A dyscalculic needs training in the use of strategies and tools. If the student does not have access to training, tools, and accommodations, and is not successful with typical supports (ex. tutoring, extra time), but has demonstrated earnest effort, the instructor may grade on work attempted, time on task, persistence, and attitude.
The instructor should retain work samples; document attendance, supports, interventions, and results; keep performance data (practice, assessments); and note observations of student difficulties and characteristics.
Next, seek academic adjustments for the learning disordered student: (a) pass-fail grading based on effort; or (b) Incomplete with option to complete course topics with modular, online courseware or with authentic project-based assessments; or (c) withdrawl without penalty; and (d) math course waiver and substitution.
DIAGNOSTIC TESTING Refer an undiagnosed student with suspected learning disorders to the university testing center. Bring the results of the Dyscalculia Checklist and the Learning Disability Checklist to the appointment and ask that all areas of concern be investigated and discussed in the report.
Dyscalculic woman experiences confusion reading an analog clock. Dyscalculia Illustration by Jo-Ellen Bosson of NY. 2020

MLD Videos

MLD 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 short-term 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 4-5 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, and linear manipulatives.
  20. needs small recognizable patterns
  21. struggles with 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 for simultaneous processing, compounding task demands, retention of serial information (ex. 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:
  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
  8. working memory
  9. time awareness
  10. telling time
  11. time management, schedules
  12. organization
  13. sequencing
  14. procedures for arithmetic
  15. place value
  16. memory of addition and multiplication facts
  17. memory of math rules
  18. mental arithmetic
  19. calculation
  20. visualization
  21. name-face memory
  22. visual memory
  23. visual-spatial discrimination, interpretation, processing, and memory.
  24. unconscious errors with numbers and symbols when reading, listening, thinking (reasoning), copying, writing, and speaking.
  25. think slowly and carefully, and operate without confidence.
  26. When tasked in their deficit areas, may demonstrate agitation, distress, anxiety, anger, avoidance, and resistance.
  27. Children grow into dyscalculic adults who exhibit the same problems, but become better at hiding and managing their difficulties.
Student confusion in math class. Dyscalculia Illustrated by Jo-Ellen Bosson, NY, 2020.

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 - The author goes from number-blind to college professor. by Paul Moorcraft

Why is Math so Hard for Some Children

by Daniel Berch and Michele Mazzocco

Dyscalculia From Research to Education

by Brian Butterworth (2018)

Limitless 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.


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