Dyscalculia is a learning disorder in which individuals have an inherent difficulty comprehending mathematical processes. This disorder can apply to simple concepts, such as the inability to understand fractions and difficulty remembering form multiplication tables. Much like dyslexia, persons with dyscalculia are often tagged in grade school as poor learners. Many go undiagnosed until years into their academic careers. There are four basic tests that can be administered if you or someone you know wants to be tested for dyscalculia.
Administer a "quick test" to see if the person you are testing should be reviewed by a professional. Ask the following questions: 1. I sometimes see a number written down, but when I copy it, I write the numbers in the wrong order. 2. When using a phone I dial numbers in the wrong order. 3. I can't remember numbers--even when I use them often--such as telephone numbers that I dial a lot. 4. I always find adding up and taking away difficult. 5. I can't understand what fractions are all about. 6. When someone mentions odd and even numbers I don't understand what they mean. 7. When someone mentions odd and even numbers I have to think very carefully to work out which is which. 8. I could never work in a shop because I could never work out how much change to give someone. 9. The 24 hour clock always confuses me totally. If the person being tested answers yes to half or more of these questions, you should proceed to another form of testing.
Ask the teacher of the individual to conduct a comparative test. This is done by analysing the person in comparison to his classmates. For example, if the teacher knows that all the students are by that point capable of understanding and performing a given task and the person being tested is not, the teacher should give a series of tests to try and determine whether the failure to perform is limited to one specific concept or due to a broader inability to understand a core function of mathematics. A teacher cannot diagnose or say conclusively if the student has dyscalculia, but the teacher can recommend further testing.
Check with your teacher or school to see if a computer test is available. A popular, well-regarded test is called the Dyscalculia Screener, which identifies dyscalculic tendencies by measuring response times along with answers.
Consider administering an educational psychology test, in which a psychologist will make his own diagnosis. However, be aware that the test is expensive to administer and your school is not required to respect or accept the results of the test.
- Photo courtesy of stuartpilbrow on Flickr