Lots of kids struggle with maths, but for some the difficulties go beyond a little bit of frustration. If a child’s maths troubles are serious — and persistent — they may be a sign of a learning disorder called dyscalculia.
Dyscalculia (pronounced dis·cal·koo·lee·a) is a mathematics learning disorder characterised, among other things, by the difficulty in memorising simple numbers and calculation. On a day-to-day basis, it can translate into misreading the time on a watch, price tag or car license plate, as well as having difficulty remembering phone numbers, number sequences or calculating the return on a purchase.
Though nearly as common as dyslexia, dyscalculia is neither well-known nor well-understood by many parents and teachers and so kids struggle for years before receiving a diagnosis.
According to Smartick global research, approximately 5 to 7% of a country’s population may suffer in silence from dyscalculia and that in a class of 25 students, it is likely that at least one child has the learning disorder. For a population of 57+ million in South Africa, and if similar percentages are anything to go by, it could equate to around four million people potentially being undiagnosed.
“Dyscalculia tends to be confused with other disorders such as attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), low IQ or even study laziness. While it can result in failure in the mathematics subject, although not always the case, it can translate into real life difficulties that cause frustration and low-self-esteem,” says Smartick co-founder, Javier Arroyo.
Online assessment allows quick identification of children at risk of dyscalculia
With the aim of helping the educational community and parents detect dyscalculia early, Smartick has launched a free standardised online assessment that allows for quick and easy identification of children at risk of dyscalculia.
The assessment takes approximately 15 minutes to complete and includes tasks around three fundamental areas of mathematical learning: comparison and recognition of numbers, Arabic numerals and numbering and arithmetic.
“The exercises for each evaluate the ability to recognise and manipulate numerical quantities without counting, and numerical processing that use verbal symbolic code, such as number recognition and comparison. Children with dyscalculia often have severe and persistent difficulties in learning arithmetic,” says Arroyo.
At the end of the assessment, a report is immediately generated and sent with the child’s strengths and weaknesses in each of the evaluated areas. If, according to the results, a child is at risk of dyscalculia, it is recommended that parents or guardians visit a professional for a complete evaluation, which includes psychological tests for intelligence, attention and reading, in addition to specific tests for maths.
“Children with dyscalculia need adapted daily training based on a deep understanding of concepts and procedures. Your child might be the next Bill Gates and can help change the world, but he’s misdiagnosed and misunderstood,” concludes Arroyo.
*The standardised dyscalculia assessment needs to be completed on a tablet and is aimed at children from first to fourth grade. It was developed in collaboration with the Universities of Malaga and Valladolid in Spain, with more than 800 students in different areas of Spain participating in the initial assessment validation study.