What Is Number Dyslexia?

A.E. Freeman

Number dyslexia, also called dyscalculia, is a condition in which a person has trouble perceiving and processing math and equations. Someone with number dyslexia may transpose numbers or confuse symbols such as + or X. Other signs of dyscalculia may include difficulty telling the time on an analog clock, learning to count, or measuring or weighing objects.

Number dyslexia may be diagnosed by a teacher.
Number dyslexia may be diagnosed by a teacher.

The condition can be diagnosed by a teacher or professional who specializes in learning disabilities. To diagnose number dyslexia, a person may evaluate how a student handles basic skills like counting or performing simple equations such as addition and multiplication. The professional may also examine a student's ability to measure items, both physical and abstract, such as minutes passing by. To make the diagnosis, a student's actual ability is compared to the expected ability for her age or grade level.

Children with number dyslexia typically struggle with the basics of math.
Children with number dyslexia typically struggle with the basics of math.

Number dyslexia presents itself differently depending on the age of the student. A very young child may struggle to learn to count or understand the connection between a number and objects. For example, a 3-year-old may not understand what "three candy bars" means. Pre-schoolers and very young children with dyscalculia may also struggle to logically connect objects. It may be difficult for them to group red objects or cone-shaped objects together, for instance.

As a child with number dyslexia becomes older, she will most likely have difficulty understanding the basics of math or committing the facts of math, such as when to add, subtract, or multiply, to memory. Learning the meaning of math words, such as multiplication, is difficult for an older student with dyscalculia. Measuring and problem-solving is also a challenge.

Adults with the condition have some difficulty with everyday tasks. It may be difficult for an adult with number dyslexia to estimate the cost of a meal out or a trip to the grocery store before she gets to the check-out lane. Sticking to a budget or balancing a checkbook is also a struggle. An adult with dyscalculia can have trouble getting to places on a schedule or understanding how long it will take to complete a task.

The condition can be treated by learning where a student has strengths and weaknesses. As people with dyscalculia usually struggle to grasp abstract concepts, such as time, many benefit from focusing on concrete objects first, such as measuring distance rather than measuring minutes. People who have trouble understanding concepts benefit from having those concepts explained fully and by asking questions any time they encounter a difficulty.

A person with number dyslexia may have trouble balancing a checkbook.
A person with number dyslexia may have trouble balancing a checkbook.

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Discussion Comments


Kids with attention deficit disorders often having learning disorders. This makes me wonder exactly what the connection is. However, I also think that when you have something like ADHD, for example, many schools and teachers are not prepared to deal with helping you learn, and this means you are more likely to fall behind in school.

And when this happens, people start wanting to put labels on you, and it is too easy for teachers to say you have a learning disability so they don't have to do their jobs and teach you, or so they will have an excuse for why you are not learning.


I can't even begin to understand personally what it is like to have dyslexia of any kind, but I do know people who have the condition. It's amazing how the brain works, and even more amazing to me that doctors and scientists have been able to figure out what is going on with the brains of people with dyslexia.

Of course, it is good that researchers have been able to learn so much about the condition because many people are able to learn to cope with the condition and you never even know they have it because we now better understand what it is and how people can function with it.


When I was in school we didn't know anything about learning disabilities. When I look back and think about all of the kids who were called slow, and even worse names than that it makes feel sorry for them. I wish I could honestly say that I wasn't one of the kids who thought those kids just didn't try hard enough or just didn't have the intelligence to keep up, but I was.

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