Most teachers are familiar with common learning disabilities. One of those, dyslexia, has gotten a lot of needed attention in recent years. But just as many, if not more, young people have difficulties with basic math – which could be a sign of a learning disability called dyscalculia.

This post will explain the most common signs of dyscalculia in children that you might observe in a student. Dyscalculia is considered a specific learning disability covered under IDEA. Some people call it “math dyslexia” or “number dyslexia”.

You will also find a dyscalculia checklist that you can download and print to refer to as needed.

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**Signs of Dyscalculia in Children (Preschool to Kindergarten)**

These are some of the problems you might notice in very young children who are beginning to show signs of dyscalculia:

- difficulty recognizing numbers
- late learning to count
- difficulty recognizing patterns
- difficulty with sequencing
- struggling to connect numbers to quantities (i.e. 9 represents nine objects)
- losing track when counting objects
- needing to use manipulatives or visual aids to count beyond what is normally expected with younger children (fingers, touch each object when counting, etc)

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One important thing to remember is that these are difficulties that become evident following sufficient instruction. You wouldn’t suspect dyscalculia in a four year old who has not been taught how to count objects or recognize numbers.

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**Signs of Dyscalculia in Children (1st Grade and Up)**

School-age students with dyscalculia may display a wide range of mathematics difficulties which can include:

- extreme difficulty learning how to complete basic math procedures like addition, subtraction, and multiplication
- persistent finger-counting and using fingers to calculate
- having poor number sense and inability to make reasonable estimates
- inability to perform mental math tasks
- difficulty with skip counting and counting backwards
- struggling to interpret word problems and relate them to math calculations
- having a hard time understanding place value
- poor memory and recall of numerical information such as phone numbers
- difficulty learning to count money and make change
- difficulty learning to tell time
- difficulty with time management and estimating how long it will take to complete a task
- difficulty processing visual-spatial information such as graphs, charts, and maps
- avoidance of even short math assignments and tests
- experiencing math anxiety when presented with new math concepts and tasks

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**How is Dyscalculia Diagnosed?**

Teachers are often the first ones to notice signs of dyscalculia in children. But the disability is most accurately diagnosed by an educational psychologist.

The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders from the American Psychiatric Association) defines dyscalculia as a specific learning disorder evidenced by problems with:

- Number sense
- Memorization of basic math facts
- Accurate and fluent calculation
- Accurate math reasoning

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The difficulties must have persisted for at least 6 months and fail to improve despite the implementation of appropriate math interventions.

That means if a student is struggling with basic math skills and you observe some of these signs of dyscalculia in children, you will need to go through the same steps you would for dyslexia or any other learning difficulty.

First, you will need to implement specific math interventions to try to remedy the problem. Keep accurate data that shows what interventions you put in place, how often they were used, and how the student responded. This can be done during your walk-to-intervention time or in guided math groups.

If there is little to no improvement after a period of time (usually 5 to 6 weeks), the next step is to start the referral process to your school psychologist. He or she may provide you with checklist screeners, different interventions to try, or may schedule diagnostic assessments.

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⏬ Download these free printable checklists to keep in your teacher files. They include the same signs of dyscalculia in children as shown above in a handy single-page format.

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Although math struggles are often a lifelong problem, a diagnosis of dyscalculia is the first step toward getting a student the right help. Special education services, extra help with a private tutor, and accommodations like providing extra time and visual supports are all things that can give the student the support needed to be successful math students.