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Developmental Dyscalculia: A New Understanding of Early Warning Signs

dyscalculia is neither well-known nor well-understood among educators and clinicians. Roughly 5%-7% of students in the United States have this math-based learning disability.1, 2 Still, dyslexia is studied and discussed in scientific journals nearly 14 times more frequently than is dyscalculia.3In other words, children with developmental dyscalculia are quite likely slipping through the cracks at school and at the doctor’s office.

What’s more, our new understanding of dyscalculia suggests that educators and caregivers can detect its symptoms long before a child fails at arithmetic; it is possible to test and improve foundational skills beginning at an early age.Individuals with developmental dyscalculia experience a specific deficit: They struggle to represent and process numerical magnitude in a typical way.This is a development disorder and begins long before kindergarten; early struggles lead to difficulties in learning numerical expressions such as calculation problems and retaining them in memory. A poor understanding of underlying quantities may also mean an individual needs more working memory to complete a calculation, which taxes the brain in observable ways.

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