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Dyscalculia is a learning disorder that affects an individual's ability to do math. Early diagnosis can help to avoid poor school performance
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Types of Dyscalculia and How to Differentiate Them

Types of Dyscalculia
School photo created by drobotdean – www.freepik.es


It is not easy to find two children with dyscalculia who have the exact same difficulties in mathematics.

Today we will talk about the heterogeneity of the difficulties presented by this specific learning disorder and, associated with this, we will look at the types of dyscalculia that exist.

How many types of dyscalculia are there?

Diagnostically, there are no different types of dyscalculia, but it is true that anyone who has known children with this learning disorder will have realised that the difficulties in mathematics can be very different from person to person.

There are children with problems in memorising basic numerical facts, but perfectly capable in other tasks such as reading or writing numbers. There are others with specific difficulties in problem-solving but good at calculus. And there are those with generalised problems in everything numerical… The truth is that each child and each dyscalculia is usually different.

In terms of scientific studies, we have not yet obtained a clear answer as to the types of dyscalculia, but we do have some proposals. In 2007 Wilson and Dehaene developed a theoretical model of dyscalculia subtypes associated with four different causes of dyscalculia:

  • Basic deficits in numerical processing.
  • Phonological processing deficiencies.
  • Visuospatial deficiencies.
  • Deficiencies in working memory and executive functions.

Types of Dyscalculia

Basic deficiencies in numerical processing

Children with dyscalculia who show problems at the level of quantity comparison and subitizing, i.e. with a deficit in number sense, are grouped here.

These problems at the level of representation and manipulation of numerical quantities are also reflected in difficulties in all tasks involving the symbolic handling of numbers. In fact, these children lack the basis for the proper development of more advanced mathematical knowledge.

Deficiencies in phonological processing

In this group we include children with dyscalculia with problems at the level of verbal symbolic representation. This would result in difficulties in all mathematical skills that rely heavily on the ability to process and manipulate verbal information, such as reading and writing numbers, learning arithmetic facts, problem-solving and counting sequence.

Visuospatial impairments

Children with dyscalculia characterised by a visuospatial deficit have difficulty with the spatial representation of numbers. In addition, they often have trouble understanding spatially represented information (e.g., graphs or vertical operations).

In general, visuospatial skills are crucial for many arithmetic tasks. Multi-digit calculations, for example, depend on the ability to spatially organise the execution of the algorithm, maintaining the alignment of columns and rows. Spatial working memory also plays an important role in carry operations.

Impairment in working memory and executive functions

Problems with working memory and executive functions are an important cognitive marker of developmental dyscalculia. In fact, each new acquisition in arithmetic learning, places high demands on working memory in terms of information storage and processing.

Children with this type of dyscalculia show delayed acquisition of simple arithmetic strategies, frequent errors in the execution of mathematical procedures, poor understanding of the concepts underlying the use of procedures and difficulties in sequencing the multiple steps in complex procedures.

Intervention according to the different types of dyscalculia

It is important to remember that talking about types of dyscalculia is particularly useful in the context of intervention. Children with different profiles have different needs, and the identification by specialists of the different types of dyscalculia will provide us with useful information in the future for the development of increasingly effective and individualised treatments.

Do you want to know more about dyscalculia interventions? Check out our post about activities to improve dyscalculia and challenges with basic numeracy skills.

Hiwet Costa
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