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Dyscalculia: Connecting the Dots


The paper has a list on it – ‘what I want to be when I grow up’ – in a child’s handwriting. The first few entries include ‘astronaut’, ‘engineer’ and ‘doctor’, much to everyone’s delight. Entries at the bottom of the list vary from ‘journalist’ and ‘photographer’ to ‘writer’ and ‘actor’. Obviously, these are not his priorities.

A few years later, ‘astronaut’ and ‘engineer’ are struck off the list. Later, even ‘doctor’ disappears. The child finally goes on to become a photographer or actor. Maybe this is where his passion lies, but could it be that he was forced to give up his top preferences because of something else? Maybe because he could not wrap his head around mathematics?

Most people in India are familiar with dyslexia today, thanks to the 2007 movie ‘Taare Zameen Par”. Not only did the story of a dyslexic child become a box office hit, but little Ishaan brought words like ‘dyslexia’ into our daily language; we are now more aware of this condition, and children who were previously considered ‘lazy’ or ‘careless’ are now given the support and help they ne ed in order to deal with this learning disability.

While dyslexia is a learning disability associated with letters and reading, could there be a dyslexia associated with numbers – perhaps a ‘Maths Dyslexia’ of sorts?

Dyscalculia is a learning disability that results in a person having trouble with handling and understanding numbers, number patterns and arithmetic. This affects various aspects of his daily life. Dyscalculics also have difficulties in comprehending the concepts of time and measurement, as well as impaired spatial awareness. It is important to note that dyscalculia is not related to I.Q. The reason why children with dyscalculia are unable to conquer arithmetic is that they lack, what most learning experts call, ‘a sense of numbers’. Professor Mahesh Sharma is the President of the Center for Learning/Teaching Mathematics in Boston, Massachusetts, and he has researched and published extensively on teaching methods for students with dyscalculia. He says: “Dyscalculics are unable to visualise or conceptualise numbers, number patterns or clusters and the outcomes of numerical operations, when taught through the usual methods, and the result is a weak foundation in numbers. Further, because teachers lack the know-how and appropriate methodology to help these children develop essential and basic mathematical skills like number-sense, other, more complex mathematical abilities are left undeveloped as well.”


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