Review: Dyscalculia, Like Dyslexia for Numbers, Could Explain Why You Suck at Math

by Rich on January 18, 2013 · 2 comments

Recently, an article was published by about the mathematical version of dyslexia, known as dyscalculia. While the name may sound strange, it does in fact exist. Chances are if you have struggled with some basic math principles while others seem to be Einstein, you could be struggling with this condition known as dyscalculia.

This neurological discrepancy no doubt could affect any desire to work with numbers for the long haul, but it can also make day to day basic math frustrating to work with. Some refer to this condition as “number blindness”, and statistics tell us that roughly 2.5 to 7.5 percent of the population is affected by dyscalculia.

In this article, a was taken from an article written by Laura Blue from Time Magazine in 2007, that gives you a clear picture of what dyscalculia is like for people.

“Though you may have never heard of it, the condition is much more than being bad at math. “You need to hear people suffering from dyscalculia, how hard it is for them to do everyday things, just going to the shop, counting change,” says Roi Cohen Kadosh, a research fellow at University College London (UCL). Other practical impossibilities for dyscalculics: balancing a checkbook, planning for retirement, being a baseball fan. The list goes on.”

While dyslexia is tied to the speed of optic nerves, dyscalculia is tied to a certain region of the brain. Ewen Callaway, a writer for Nature, an international weekly journal of science, says that those with normal brain function can just turn those regions off and on when it comes to math. Those that have dyscalculia cannot.

While this is all good information, it doesn’t change the fact that those that struggle with math get frustrated, and are often ridiculed by teachers and parents for lack of motivation. What is interesting is that Callaway and one of his colleagues Brian Butterworth have been doing studies on those with dyscalculia, and have seen scans of the brain which show that the regions of the brain that control the ability to work with numbers are less active.

Brian Butterworth refers to this as ‘numerosity coding’. This coding Butterworth is talking about is generally defined as the ability to understand that numbers reflect a precise quantity or value. So, if numbers are being added or taken away, the brain experiences what most of us just call confusion.

While dyscalculia isn’t quite figured out like dyslexia, and researchers continue to look for root causes, Butterworth believes that games could be developed to help those that struggle with this to learn better and work through the challenges of dyscalculia.

To read the full article in the Smithsonian about dyscalculia and the research Callaway and Butterworth have done thus far, you can visit,

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