Discalculia is a disorder of mathematical science observed in childhood. The child may not fully understand special characters or may have difficulty with individual arithmetic manipulations. Disorder is also more common in younger students during the preschool development period. For elimination of symptoms it is used correction programs which are selected by experts individually.
Violations of mathematical operations and abstract concepts are quite common – in 5-6% of schoolchildren. In most cases the pathology is not diagnosed, as it is perceived by parents as features of character and propensity for humanitarian subjects.
At what age can we talk about dyscalculia?
Psychologists recommend to make a diagnosis not earlier than 5-6 years. This age corresponds to the preschool period, when training and formation of basic skills and knowledge to work with abstract symbols and actions begins.
It is important to distinguish between the concepts of acalculia and dyscalculia. The main difference between them is that in dyscalculia, the child has a partial impairment in arithmetic, while in dyscalculia the ability to count is completely absent. The latter disorder is noted in case of serious brain damage or pedagogical neglect in upbringing.
Reasons for the abnormalities
Depending on the etiological factor, the disorder is divided into three types: genetic, organic or psychogenic. Often, these forms are combined with each other. Effective treatment is not possible without an immediate cause. Doctors note the following features of dyscalculia:
In case of psychogenic disorders, the child’s negative attitude towards arithmetic is revealed. This may be due to pressure from parents in the learning process, severe penalties for wrong answers, and the existence of a conflict between the teacher or parent and the student.
Genetic predisposition is detected in students whose parents also had difficulties in mastering 1st grade math worksheets. The direct gene responsible for this is not found, but specialists do not deny the genetic nature of the disorder in some patients.
Organic disease is associated with the disturbance of the structure or functioning of brain areas that provide the processes of perception and analysis of information. Such changes may occur against the background of birth traumas, adverse effects on the fetus during pregnancy (infections and mother’s bad habits), brain injury and neuroinfections. In adult patients, the organic type of dyscalculia is observed.
In any type of disorder in the parietal cortex of large hemispheres neuronal dysfunction is observed. The dysfunction primarily affects the intracerebral groove, where the center of perception of abstract symbols and counting is located. In a child with the disease there is a decrease in the ability to cognize and process symbolic information. In addition, the inability to perform mathematical actions may be due to increased distractiveness, insufficient speed of processing incoming data and impaired attention.
Types of disorders
Different mechanisms of development of the violation cause violations of separate stages of work with abstract symbols. Depending on this, several types of dyscalculia are distinguished:
Graphic – manifested by difficulties in the written representation of mathematical symbols and numbers, noted the inability to accurately reproduce geometric shapes;
Practical – connected with the broken understanding of abstract mathematical concepts, children cannot translate them into concrete examples, which makes it difficult to solve problems or explain the performed mathematical actions;
lexical – manifests itself in broken reading of mathematical signs and numbers, the ability to perceive information and learn by listening to the teacher or parents, but there is no understanding of the learning material when reading independently;
Verbal – reveals problems with listening to mathematical concepts and difficulty naming them, while writing tasks are easy to do;
operating room – manifests violations of oral and written problem solving with mathematical actions;
ideognostic – is connected with impossibility to conduct mental reflections and calculations without reliance on mathematical concepts, such people need to keep written records, sketch problems or use sticks.
Regardless of the cause of development, individual types of dyscalculia can be combined. This leads to a more complex perception of information and makes it difficult to master the exact sciences.
The first signs of the disorder are detected at preschool age, during the formation of the first mathematical skills. The disease is most often diagnosed in primary school, when arithmetic begins to be taught. The prevalence among schoolchildren can reach 5%. In the absence of professional help, dyscalculia leads to disorders in the learning process and subsequent choice of professions that are not related to arithmetic.
In the preschool period, children learn the concept of “numbers” for a long time and are unable to list them freely. There is an inability to compare the two subjects by size, number of details, and written representation of abstract values. In some versions of dyscalculia, a person cannot recognize mathematical symbols, for example, believes that the written number “5” and the word “five” are two different concepts.
If the clinical picture of dysgraphy prevails, a preschooler cannot record or rewrite numbers correctly. This is especially noticeable when working with similar symbols: 3, 8, 6 и 9. Children write them upside down or portray them as mirrored upside down. The verbal variant of the disorder manifests itself in the inability to correctly display mathematical symbols when written under dictation.
The symptomatology of dyscalculia is amplified during the primary school years. Pupils should learn basic mathematical operations, keep in their heads algorithms for solving problems, and reproduce and use in practice complex abstract constructions, such as the multiplication table. When communicating with a child, their inability to translate problem conditions and logical constructions into mathematical records is noted. It is typical to use visual objects (fingers, pencils, etc.) to perform calculations. If a person’s perception of arithmetic constructions is disturbed, he or she cannot master multiplication by a column and division by a corner, which require precise arrangement of numbers.
In the absence of correction in further learning, there are difficulties in mastering geometry, algebra and other exact sciences, where it is necessary to use abstract mathematical symbols. Against the background of these difficulties in learning and perception of mathematical information, children can not navigate on maps, calculations related to dates and specific time.
Diagnostic measures, dyscalculia test
When symptoms of an alleged disorder are identified, you should consult your school psychologist or speech therapist. If the clinical symptoms are severe, a psychiatrist will be responsible for the diagnosis and treatment. In rare cases, the disease is detected in adolescents.
The disease is diagnosed using an algorithm that allows to confirm violations of calculus and other cognitive skills. Examination consists of:
Collection of existing complaints and anamnesis of the disease. It is important to establish the nature of the course of pregnancy and childbirth, the conditions of upbringing, and the presence of signs of similar symptoms in the child’s parents.
An examination during which the doctor examines neurological functions and the mental sphere. When changes are detected, a differential diagnosis with organic brain lesions should be made.
Assessment of skills and abilities in mathematics. Schoolchildren are asked to count up to ten and back, to compare subjects by size and quantity, to name geometrical figures correctly, to solve simple examples. In addition, assess the ability to navigate in space, including the map, to perform complex actions on the instructions in several stages. At diagnostics of a dyscalculia at children of preschool and early school age they are asked to execute simple tasks: to arrange numbers on their increase or decrease, to compare them. It is important to remember that the tasks should be selected according to age norms.
Dyscalculia test, which consist of tasks for recoding information. A teenager is required to translate verbal constructions into mathematical symbols. For this purpose, he or she is offered various formulas, fractions, etc.
Electroencephalography (EEG) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is performed if there is suspicion of organic brain damage.
Differential diagnoses of dyscalculia need to be made with a number of pathological conditions such as pedagogical neglect, mental retardation and oligophrenia. In children with the disease only the ability to calculate arithmetic decreases, and all other areas (intelligence, memory, etc.) are kept within the age range.