Adult Dyscalculia (Math Dyslexia) Could This Be In Your Neurology?

 “Mathematics may not teach us to add love or subtract hate, but it gives us hope that every problem has a solution

From the book Life Is A Math Equation p.58 by Steven Wright

I have to start off by saying Dyscalculia makes me think of Draculia and that makes me smile each time I say the word.  Once you understand dyscalculia (math dyslexia) you will smile more about it too.

“Dyscalculia is a disability resulting in difficulty learning or comprehending arithmetic, such as difficulty in understanding numbers, learning how to manipulate numbers, performing mathematical calculations and learning facts in mathematics. It is sometimes informally known as “math dyslexia”, though this can be misleading as dyslexia is a different condition from dyscalculia.

“Dyscalculia is associated with dysfunction in the region around the intraparietal sulcus[6] and potentially also the frontal lobe. Dyscalculia does not reflect a general deficit in cognitive abilities, nor do difficulties with time, measurement, and spatial reasoning.”  from Wikipedia

History: The history of the term is closely linked to the history of  dyslexia.  It was termed around the 1940’s and became an official recognized in 1974 by the work of Czechoslovakian researcher Ladislav Kosc.

I try to keep in mind that we are talking about less than 50 years since the science community started to label and identify this and do research. That is not a long time and it is why there is much to be learned about it and room for lots of tools to be implemented into the school systems to make learning more engaging for everyone.

Recently I have been listening to a very interesting podcast called “Dyslexia is Our Superpower” by Gibby Booth Jasper

In her most recent podcast she interviewed Rebecca Ginger about dyscalculia and the amazing software she created to make it easier for people to add stories to memorizing the multiplication tables and making it fun.  Her own daughter went from being the worst person in the math class to being the best by learning this way.  

Table Fables is the process she created and shares.

I figured it was about time we talked about this little label in adults. In the interview Rebecca Ginger describes being mad as hell once she figures out she has this and that she is not stupid. 

This is why it is never too late to learn about your brain. Math doesn’t end once you are out of school.  The whole point of school is to teach us the BASIC skills so we can build on them.  Hence, you are doing math your whole life. Now back to the story, once she got done being mad, she got into action and took some tutoring and training and as an adult improved her foundational math skills. She said it made a world of difference in her life. It made daily living easier.  

That is SUCCESS.  A happy, healthy human being.

“Most adults with dyscalculia have a hard time processing math at a 4th grade level. For 1st-4th grade level, many adults will know what to do for the math problem, but they will often get them wrong because of “careless errors”, although they are not careless when it comes to the problem. The adults cannot process their errors on the math problems or may not even recognize that they have made these errors. Visual-spatial input, auditory input, and touch input will be affected due to these processing errors.” from Wikipedia

“Adults with poor math skills are more likely to suffer in terms of career opportunities and management of personal finances. There’s additionally a greater chance they are struggling with more than one learning difficulty, such as dyslexia or ADHD.”

Let’s clear this up right away, just because you have dyscalculia doesn’t mean you don’t like math, that you aren’t highly gifted in science and math.  It means that you have a hurdle to cross to get at your gifts.  Thank goodness for calculators and that still isn’t enough, but it sure helps.

MY STORY: I have never been officially diagnosed with this, and I have not been tested since 1978, so I would say it is just a matter of timing before I am.  I would also say that from my research I have a milder case of this.  From 1 to 10, I am a 3. 

I struggled in school to learn my multiplication tables.  I had to memorize the hell out of them, which meant I wrote them over and over and over again, just like learning to spell.  100 times per word or more.  I was never able to memorize the whole table.  I am missing 7×8, 7×9, 8×8 that section was a real bugger.  Even though I struggled with that, I liked math.  It was very linear.  It made sense to me.  When I returned to college studies in my 20’s I studied Civil Engineering and Land Surveying.  I did a whole lot of math and loved the heck out of it and excelled, graduating top of my class.

When I got my first job after graduation with a highway survey crew, I had one crew chief who could do all of the math for surveying in his head.  He believed that everyone should and could do this if they only applied themselves. Once I was placed on his crew, he took away my calculator and said I had to do it all in my head.  We fought daily and he said many hurtful things about my daily errors with math in the field.  He would tell me I wasn’t smart enough, I was in the wrong career and that I just didn’t  have what it took to do the job. Day in and day out for eight plus hours a day. He bullied me long enough that I quit, just to get away from him.  That was over 15 years ago and it still makes my blood boil to think about it. If I had had this label and was as confident as I am now, I would have told him he was wrong, walked into HR and expressed how we could do this better and we needed to do it better.

Today in my business I use math all day in invoicing, sales and marketing just to name a few things and for fun I sometimes do some algebra and trig problems on apps, just because I love the game of figuring things out.

I am a huge supporter of STEM and want to see more and more diversity in these job areas.  I brought diversity on a couple of levels, both in gender and in learning styles. It wasn’t always easy or fun to be the only woman in the room or to need to learn in a different way than others.  It was also pretty normal for me, so it didn’t slow me down either.  What would have been helpful is knowing my neurology and being able to communicate my educational needs for success.

Here is a start to help you know your neurology.

Dyscalculia is characterized by difficulties with common arithmetic tasks.

These difficulties may include:  from

  • Difficulty reading analog clocks
  • Difficulty stating which of two numbers is larger
  • Sequencing issues [dubious – discuss]
  • Inability to comprehend financial planning or budgeting, sometimes even at a basic level; for example, estimating the cost of the items in a shopping basket or balancing a checkbook
  • Visualizing numbers as meaningless or nonsensical symbols, rather than perceiving them as characters indicating a numerical value (hence the misnomer, “math dyslexia”)
  • Difficulty with multiplication, subtraction, addition, and division tables, mental arithmetic, etc.
  • Inconsistent results in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division
  • When writing, reading and recalling numbers, mistakes may occur in the areas such as: number additions, substitutions, transpositions, omissions, and reversals
  • Poor memory (retention and retrieval) of math concepts; may be able to perform math operations one day, but draw a blank the next; may be able to do book work but then fails tests
  • Ability to grasp math on a conceptual level, but an inability to put those concepts into practice
  • Difficulty recalling the names of numbers, or thinking that certain different numbers “feel” the same (e.g. frequently interchanging the same two numbers for each other when reading or recalling them)
  • Problems with differentiating between left and right
  • A “warped” sense of spatial awareness, or an understanding of shapes, distance, or volume that seems more like guesswork than actual comprehension
  • Difficulty with time, directions, recalling schedules, sequences of events, keeping track of time, frequently late or early
  • Difficulty reading maps
  • Difficulty working backwards in time (e.g. What time to leave if needing to be somewhere at ‘X’ time)
  • Difficulty reading musical notation
  • Difficulty with choreographed dance steps
  • Having particular difficulty mentally estimating the measurement of an object or distance (e.g., whether something is 3 or 6 meters (10 or 20 feet) away)
  • Inability to grasp and remember mathematical concepts, rules, formulae, and sequences
  • Inability to concentrate on mentally intensive tasks
  • Mistaken recollection of names, poor name/face retrieval, may substitute names beginning with the same letter
  • Some people with dyscalculia also suffer from aphantasia that affects how they can “see” in their mind’s eye. However, people without dyscalculia also report suffering from this – but it is more prevalent in those with dyslexia and other learning issues.

I know you really want to take a quiz, so here are a couple of options:

Touch-Type Read & Spell website has a list of the 5 Tips for Adult Learners. They are pretty good.  Check it out for yourself.

Since I am embracing my labels and as I am acquiring them, I subscribed to the Table Fables program and I am going to see if I can’t get my times table memorized.  That dam 8 x 8 kicks my butt every time, but not anymore.

Now that you know more, you can do more for yourself.  Learn something new today, pass it on.



JoyGenea Schumer
Business Owner, International Neurodiversity Coach and Speaker

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