Dyscalculia is a form of learning disability that affects a person's ability to acquire math skills an average child might.
In the past things such as low intelligence, environmental deprivation, or poor instruction have all been used to explain the disability. Current information indicates that the learning disability is actually a brain-based one with a familial-genetic predisposition. The disability is believed to involve both hemispheres of a person's brain, although it particularly involves the left parietotemporal areas.
Developmental dyscalculia is a fairly common disability with a prevalence among school-aged persons of around five-to-six percent. There is a similar level of occurrence among people who experience attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder or developmental dyslexia. People with epilepsy, fragile x syndrome, and developmental language disorder may also experience developmental dyscalculia. The numbers of females and males who experience the disability are fairly equivalent. The effects of the disability on a person's education and subsequent psychological well-being and employment remain unknown.
Studies related to developmental dyscalculia and children have primarily focused on the child's arithmetic skills development. The areas of study pursued may be divided into two different sections; counting knowledge and strategy and memory development. Counting involves five essential principles:
Mastering the principles of counting is something that is needed in order to discover the most efficient strategies for basic math procedures, to include adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing.
A number of the models of cognitive development prompt the thought that children think or behave in a particular way under certain rule for lengthy periods of time. Children then undergo a brief and at times unexplained transition, thinking and behaving in a new way. Another thought-line is that developmental change in children is both variable and gradual, involving a number of various strategies that are available to the child as their brain matures. Issues arise when there truly is only one efficient or logical strategy. After experimenting for a period of time with various strategies in both progressive and regressive directions, the majority of children focus on the best and most logical strategy and continue to use it for the rest of their lives.
A child without developmental dyscalculia will use a number of strategies to solve problems that are the same or similar. Three plus three always equals six. Other children might choose to count up from the larger number; 9+2=(9+1)+1=10+1=11. Others decompose into more easily manipulated numbers. Children eventually end up using one or another of these or another strategy with other addition problems.
One thought is that children with developmental dyscalculia might not be able to find a preferred strategy for solving math problems. While this doesn't prevent the child from becoming proficient over a longer period of time, it will most likely find them falling behind others in their class and experiencing significant slow downs in relation to problem-solving strategies. Evidence has shown that children with developmental dyscalculia are often two grade levels behind their peers in math.
Once children have gone through a period of exploration in regards to uncovering the best problem-solving strategies for them, mastery of math is something that is achieved when all basic facts may be retrieved from their long-term memories without mistakes. Mastering basic math is essential to further ability to work with more complex math operations like long division, fractions, geometry, or algebra. Even if a child has mastered their most efficient strategies, deficits in their memory might lead to disabilities in math.
When a person does a math problem, the likelihood of them being able to directly retrieve a solution the same problem increases each time they do the problem. For the execution of a computational strategy to lead to the creation of long-term memory between the problem and the solution, both the equation's, 'augend,' or first number, and, 'addend,' or second number, as well as the answer, all have to be simultaneously active in the person's working memory.
For someone to create a long-term memory for a math fact such as 17+3+20, they have be both accurate and efficient. Accuracy is important because if the person commits a lot of computational errors, they are more likely to retrieve incorrect answers from their long-term memory later on when faced with the same problem. Being efficient with math problems is also important because with slow counting speed, a person's working memory representation of the augend is more likely to decay before the addend and solution have been presented fully. When this occurs, even if a person finds the right answer their association with the rest of the equation in their long-term memory is weak.
Inhibition is also associated with information processing and involves the active suppression of irrelevant sensory input. In relation to this idea is the idea of resistance to interference, or attention - the ability of a person to concentrate on information while ignoring peripheral or outside information. Non-disabled students might complete a math worksheet in the midst of a noisy classroom with a minimal amount of distraction while still achieving a high level of accuracy. Students with developmental dyscalculia might experience problems because of a deficit in inhibition.
People who experience developmental dyscalculia are not low in intelligence. Their ability to work with strategies related to math, proceed towards greater abilities in the field of study, as well as potential memory issues and attention difficulties, find them experiencing hardships with numbers and math. Many people with developmental dyscalculia excel in other areas of study.