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  • Stimulates the neural networks used in processing numeric language

  • Clinical exercises that help to reduce the amount of calculation errors

  • Help your child develop brain strategies to help overcome the problems associated with dyscalculia. Give it a try!

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CogniFit Technology

Clinically Validated

Exercises to help treat dyscalculia

Dyscalculia evaluation and diagnosis 1

Cognitive screening: Complete assessment and diagnosis of the cognitive function of the child. Automated reports about the affected areas.

Clinical exercises and games dyscalculia2

Clinical battery of exercises: Automated intervention strategy to stimulate the deficient network of neural connections.

dyscalculia activities 3

Development of new resources and strategies for your mind: Boosts capacity to resolve the numeric difficulties.

What is dyscalculia? Dyscalculia Definition

What is the dyscalculia definition? It is a specific developmental disorder, biologically based, that deeply affects learning related to mathematics and arithmetic. Many times it is defined as “math dyslexia”. This condition is independent of the level of intelligence of the child and to the teaching methods used. The difficulty is centered around the ability to interpret numeric symbols and arithmetical operations like adding, subtracting, multiplication, and division. A child that suffers from dyscalculia will confuse numbers and signs, and cannot do mental math or work with abstract ideas. These children have a hard time completing assignments and homework.

Dyscalculia definition is the dysfunction of the neural connections that process numeric language, making it more difficult to access and process numeric information.

The prevalence of dyscalculia disorder in the school population is about 3% to 6%, with a similar distribution between boys and girls.

Examples of dyscalculia

How does dyscalculia affect the brain?

Dyscalculia presents itself as a neuronal dysfunction in the intraparietal sulcus of the brain. This dysfunction develops a pattern of cognitive deterioration that usually manifests itself with skills deficits such as:

  • Focus (concentration): Skill related to the pattern of cognitive deterioration linked to dislexia. The structural deficit in these connections of neural networks is also related to inhibition, which affects the mind's sharpness, making it more difficult for the child to learn math.
  • Divided attention: This skill is important as it allows for multitasking. Children with math disabilities present problems when responding to a stimulus because they are unable to focus, they get distracted with irrelevant stimuli, and they tire easily.
  • Working memory: This cognitive skill refers to temporary storage and the ability to manipulate information in order to complete complex assignments. Some difficulties as a result of this may be trouble following directions, forgetting instructions and tasks, low motivation, incomplete memories, being easily distracted, not remembering numbers, and delayed mental arithmetic.
  • Short-term memory: The capacity to retain a small amount of information during a short period of time. This mental deficit explains the inability to carry out math assignments. The problems present themselves when they calculate or attempt math problems. This is also related to the inability to remember numbers or multiplication tables.
  • Naming: Implies the ability to recall a word or number and use it later. Children with dyscalculia often have trouble remembering numbers because their brains may show added difficulties in processing information and naming concepts.
  • Planning: Low levels in this cognitive skill implies difficulties in planning and making sense of numbers and exercises. This inability to anticipate events or outcomes prevents the student from correctly completing the exercise.
  • Processing speed: This corresponds to the time it takes for our brain to receive information (a number, a mathematical equation, a problem…), understand it, and respond to it. Children that do not have any learning difficulties complete this process quickly and automatically, while children who have dyscalculia need more time and energy in order to process the information.

Dyscalculia treatment

The most effective treatment for dyscalculia, just like with dyslexia, is an early diagnosis. The earlier the problem is identified, the earlier that children with this disorder can learn the necessary tools to help them adapt to a new learning process, and the more likely they are to avoid learning delays, self-esteem problems and other more serious disorders.

Dyscalculia treatments

Causes of dyscalculia

What is the cause of dyscalculia? There are numerous investigations conducted by neuroimaging. This technique allows for a live visual of brain activity and the central nervous system. Thanks to these representations, you can see that the deficit in the neural connections associated with dyscalculia is found specifically in the brain module in charge of numeric processing, which is located in the parietal lobe of the brain. Moreover, other areas such as the prefrontal cortex, the cingulate cortex, the back of the temporal lobe and numerous subcortical regions also form part of the proper functioning of mathematical or arithmetic skills.

Dyscalculia disorder occurs due to a congenital condition, meaning it has a genetic component. Normally one of the parents of the child also had trouble learning math.

Some of the causes of dyscalculia correspond to:

  • Cognitive deficit in numeric representation

    : this is a neuronal dysfunction that prevents the correct mental representation of numbers. It makes numeric decoding more difficult and it affects the comprehension of the meaning of assignments or math problems.
  • Cognitive deficit that impedes ability to store information in the brain

    : Children with dyscalculia show a dysfunction in a specific neural connection that prevents them from easily accessing numeric information. Their neural connection networks use alternative routes that a personal without this disorder does not use.

There are other possible causes that related to dyslexia. Neurobiological brain disorders, neurological maturation failures, psychomotor alterations, and even memory problems related to the environment, such as maternal exposure to alcohol, drugs in the womb, or premature birth are some possible causes.

Causes of dyscalculia

Characteristics and symptoms of dyscalculia

Dyscalculia disorder has an ample network of difficulties associated with mathematics, and its characteristics and symptoms will vary depending on the age of each child. These symptoms may be combined and present themselves differently from child to child. Often, people with dyscalculia develop brilliant ways of coping with these added difficulties, which may reduce the extent of the disorder but make it more difficult to diagnose.

It starts to become noticeable during pre-school years, when the child begins to develop mathematical learning skills and continues into childhood, adolescence, and even adulthood.

As the children continue to grow, their difficulties become more pronounced, so it is essential to seek help early on. The most important thing in dyscalculia disorder is early identification, and for this reason, parents, as well as teachers, should be alert in order to detect the difficulties and symptoms as early as possible.

The earlier we can offer these children the intervention tools necessary to help them adapt to school, the more likely they are to optimize their mental resources and learning strategies.

Symptoms of dyscalculia in pre-school aged children:

  • Difficulties

    learning how to count.

  • Problems associated with the

    comprehension of numbers

  • Inability to classify and measure:

    It is difficult to associate a number with a real life situation, for example connecting the number “2” to the possibility of having 2 candies, 2 books, 2 plates, etc.
  • Problems recognizing symbols associated with numbers

    , for example, inability to associate “4” to the concept “four”.
  • Written errors

    of numbers when they're written or copied.
  • Incorrect symbols:

    for example, confusing 9 with 6, or 3 with 8.
  • Reverse number while writing:

    Write the numbers upside down.
  • Sound errors:

    Confuse numbers that sound similar, like “two” and “three”
  • Symptoms when ordering or sequencing numbers:

    Repeat a number two or more times.
  • When we tell a child with dyscalculia

    to count until 5 and stop

    , many times they do not realize the limit when they reach 5 and continue to count.
  • Omission:

    This is quite common. The child will often forget one or more number in a series.
  • Symptoms relative to sequencing:

    Another characteristic of dyscalculia happens when we ask a child to start counting from 4, for example. The child is not able to start from this number, and instead must say the complete sequence by writing it or saying the previous numbers to him or herself.
  • They have a hard time classifying objects

    by shape and size.

Define dyscalculia

Symptoms of dyscalculia in primary school aged children:

  • Problems recognizing mathematical symbols:

    They confuse the sign + with - and cannot use these or other symbols correctly.
  • Unable to learn or remember

    basic mathematical structures,

    like 1+2=3
  • They are not able to recognize words like

    “more than” or “less than”,

  • They often use their

    fingers to count

  • Difficulties learning and remembering the procedure or

    rules for simple problems

    . They tend to skip steps and/or they do not understand the exercise well.
  • They start

    problems in the wrong order

    . For example, while adding or subtracting they start on the right instead of the left.
  • They have difficulties lining up the problems:

    For example, if there is a horizontal addition problem they do not know how to make it vertical. We can see another example of this symptom while multiplying, where children with dyscalculia have a hard time lining up the columns of numbers (derivative) in the corresponding column, or when they divide they write the quotient and they put the first number on the right and then on the left, inverting the answer.
  • Another very common characteristic is having trouble carrying when adding or subtracting.

    This is because students with dyscalculia do not understand the numeric series or decimals well.
  • Problems reasoning:

    A fairly frequent error is that the answer when subtracting is larger than the original numbers.
  • Difficulties when doing basic math in their head.

  • They do not understand spoken or dictated problems.

    They don't understand the main idea of the problem. They are not capable of visualizing all of the information that they heard, and they have trouble when they try to draw visuals.
  • Symptoms related to the process of reasoning in mathematical problems:

    The mental representation deficit prevents them from relating concepts and they don't know how to differentiate between more and less important data. They especially have trouble when the problem has more than one step.
  • They usually have more general difficulties,

    such as problems telling time and they often get lost easily because they tend to have poor orientation.

Symptoms in primary school aged children

Symptoms of dyscalculia in high school:

  • They have a hard time

    applying mathematical ideas in their day-to-day.

    For example, estimating how much they will spend in total, making change, creating a budget, etc.
  • Problems

    measuring variables

    , for example, calculating how much 500g rice, 250ml of milk, or 1/3 kg of flour, etc. corresponds to.
  • Poor orientation or disorientation

    , they have a hard time following directions and often get lost.
  • Unsure of how to solve basic mathematical equations

    and have little creativity with numbers. They do not understand the different formulas or ways to solve the same problem.
  • Hard time

    understanding graphs

    , numeric representations, or maps.
  • They are not generally good drivers

    because they don't calculate speed or distance well.

Symptoms in high school aged children

It is also important to mention that not all children that have trouble doing mathematical equations have dyscalculia disorder, and it is essential to identify the frequency of symptoms. Moreover, dyscalculia is not always related to mathematical equations, children may also have trouble with everyday activities or common games.

Types of dyscalculia

Although the symptoms that present themselves in dyscalculia are usually common in different types of dyslexia, dyscalculia usually presents itself in 5 main types.

  • Verbal dyscalculia:

    This type of dyscalculia is characterized by a difficulty naming and understanding the mathematical concepts presented verbally. Children with this type of duscalculia are able to read or write numbers, but have a hard time recognizing them when presented verbally.
  • Practognostic dyscalculia

    : This type of dyscalculia is characterized by a difficulty translating an abstract mathematical concept into a real concept. These children are able to understand mathematical concepts but have trouble listing, comparing, and manipulating mathematical equations.
  • Lexical dyscalculia

    : Trouble reading and understanding mathematical symbols and numbers, as well as mathematical expressions or equations. A child with lexical dyscalculia can understand the concepts when spoken, but may have trouble writing and understanding them.
  • Graphical dyscalculia

    : Difficulty writing mathematical symbols. Children with this type of dyscalculia are able to understand the mathematical concepts but do not have the ability to read, write, or use the correct corresponding symbols.
  • Ideognostical dyscalculia

    : Difficulty carrying out mental operations without using numbers to answer math problems and understand mathematical concepts. They may also have a hard time remembering mathematical concepts after learning them.
  • Operational dyscalculia

    : This type of dyscalculia presents itself with a difficulty to complete written or spoken mathematical operations or calculations. Someone with operational dyscalculia will be able to understand the numbers and the relationships between them, but will have trouble manipulating numbers and mathematical symbols in the calculation process.
Types of dyscalculia

Games to beat dyscalculia with the family

Dyscalculia is not easy to diagnose, and most schools do not have any type of early detection system in place to identify this disorder in the classroom and help children get the tools they need. For this reason it is often up to parents and families to be alert and identify the early symptoms.

Once you have the diagnosis, it is important to motivate your child and show them that they can be successful with patience, practice, and effort. They need to be reminded that they have other gifts, and to know that dyscalculia does not have to negatively affect their work. This is why it is also important that you work with them at home. It will help to visualize math homework and give them the necessary time they need so that they understand the exercise. Here we will provide some fun games and activities so that you can play with the family while you beat dyscalculia at home:

  • Cook together

    : Both of you look at a recipe that you are going to make and ask them to be in charge of getting the ingredients together that you'll need to cook. For example, we need 1/5 kg of lentils, 3 carrots, 2 onions, 6 pieces of meat… We have to cut the vegetables into 5 pieces...
  • Play with the clock

    : Tell the child they are in charge of telling you when it is a certain time, celebrate how well they did and how responsible and how “old” they are together.
  • Go to the supermarket

    : Have them help you go shopping, you can play games like them being responsible for how many things you have to buy, identify what and how many things there are on the list and have them get it themselves.
  • Ask them questions about prices

    : If we want to save, how many yogurts should we get, the ones that cost 1.00$, or the ones that cost 1.30$? Celebrate the great “steal” you both made together.
  • Play guess the pile

    : Make little mountains out of rocks, peas, or change and you have to guess which pile has more or less. You can also try to guess how many rocks there are in the pile. You count them together, and whoever get closer, wins.
  • Play counting something

    : Count, for example, all the red cars you see, count the number of people you see with white shoes, count how many stairs you go up...
  • Find numbers

    : As you walk around, you can play “finding numbers”, suggest that they find the number “7”, and you both look for the number on the street, license plates, etc.
  • Play remember telephone numbers

    : For example, you have to call grandma, ask them if they remember the first three numbers and you remember the rest. Call together and if they did it well, you celebrate.
  • Have them help hand things out

    : There's four of us, how can we cut a piece of cake into four equal parts?
  • Play setting the table

    : Hand out the plates, silverware, cups, napkins, and bread. Make sure they realize that it's important that each one must go to a set.
  • RolePlay

    : Imagine that the child is a store clerk, they must choose between all the products you have at home what they wants to sell at “their store”. They must give each item a price and a tag. Later, you go in as a client. With this game, you'll practice quantity, addition, subtraction, and even how to manage money. Its a fun way to spend family time and learn together.
Family activities for dyscalculia

The dyscalculia disorder is linked to dyslexia, in that both are genetic and show common cognitive deficits that make it more difficult to learn to read and do math.


  • Von Aster, M. G., & Shalev, R. S. (2007). Number development and developmental dyscalculia. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 49(11), 868-873.
  • Myers, T., Carey, E., & Szűcs, D. (2017). Cognitive and Neural Correlates of Mathematical Giftedness in Adults and Children: A Review. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 1-17.
  • Kaufmann, L., & Aster, M. von. (2012). The Diagnosis and Management of Dyscalculia. Deutsches Aerzteblatt Online, 767-778.
  • Wang, L.-C., Tasi, H.-J., & Yang, H.-M. (2012). Cognitive inhibition in students with and without dyslexia and dyscalculia. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 33(5), 1453-1461.
  • Ashkenazi, S., Rubinsten, O., & Henik, A. (2009). Attention, automaticity, and developmental dyscalculia. Neuropsychology, 23(4), 535-540.
  • Zhang, H., & Wu, H. (2011). Inhibitory ability of children with developmental dyscalculia. Journal of Huazhong University of Science and Technology [Medical Sciences], 31(1), 131-136.
  • Ardila, A., & Rosselli, M. (2019). Cognitive Rehabilitation of Acquired Calculation Disturbances. Behavioural Neurology, 2019, 1-6.
  • Peters, L., Bulthé, J., Daniels, N., Op de Beeck, H., & De Smedt, B. (2018). Dyscalculia and dyslexia: Different behavioral, yet similar brain activity profiles during arithmetic. NeuroImage: Clinical, 18, 663-674.
  • Cheng, D., Xiao, Q., Chen, Q., Cui, J., & Zhou, X. (2018). Dyslexia and dyscalculia are characterized by common visual perception deficits. Developmental Neuropsychology, 43(6), 497-507.

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