Characteristics of Dyscalculia

a. Specifically related to math

Poor number sense

  • Difficulties with subitizing; recognizing the number of small quantities in one glance without counting
  • Difficulties with estimating and approximating
  • Difficulties understanding the relationships between numbers and their value
  • Slow to compare numbers (what is greater 46 or 64?)
  • Poor development of a mental number line

Difficulties with math concepts, rules and formulae

  • Difficulties understanding concepts such as number bonds, fractions, percentages and ratios
  • Difficulties with sequencing, strategies and procedures (including long division)

Difficulties with math language/vocabulary, including symbols and signs

Slow working pace

Memory related

  • Difficulties with number facts below 10 (5 + 3 = ? or 9 – 3 = ? 6 - ? = 4)
  • Great difficulties with mental arithmetic
  • Difficulties with basic four operations (+ – x ÷), including memorizing times tables
  • Difficulties following (verbal) instructions
  • Forgets mastered skills quickly

Poor reflection of their own work

  • Does not check answers or appears to be unaware of errors

Difficulties with visual spatial organization

  • Difficulties copying accurately
  • Difficulties in geometry


  • High rate of errors, especially those that appear to be careless mistakes
  • Will avoid math or be quickly frustrated or confused while doing math
  • Anxiety and failure are affecting the student’s attitude and motivation in math
  • Do not ‘see’ things such as 33/11 = 3 or that 6/12 and 5/10 both equal 1/2 (after instructions and ample practice).

Students with dyscalculia also may have some of the following typical traits;

  • They may fail to develop associations between sums: every sum is unique and they do not look back to previous sums; because the students are unable to make associations based upon something they actually have not mastered yet1.
  • They may have great difficulties with word problem sums.
  • They may display poor meta- cognitive skills (orientation of the sum, check working, check answers etc).
  • They often make unusual generalizations; “… so when it is about a garden I always have to multiply length and breadth?
  • Students with dyscalculia experience a lot of stress during calculations/math classes. They may react differently; some will try to avoid it, some will act out and some might display apathy. Stress may lead to psycho-somatic complaints, such as tiredness, stomach-aches and even more severe negative thoughts and feelings.