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Mathematics disorder

Developmental dyscalculia

Mathematics disorder is a condition in which a child's math ability is far below normal for their age, intelligence, and education.

Causes

Children who have mathematics disorder have trouble with simple mathematical equations, such as counting and adding.

Mathematical disorder may appear with:

Symptoms

The child may have trouble with math, as well as low scores in math classes and on tests.

Problems the child may have are:

  • Trouble with reading, writing, and copying numbers
  • Problems counting and adding numbers, often making simple mistakes
  • Hard time telling the difference between adding and subtracting
  • Problems understanding math symbols and word problems
  • Can't line up numbers properly to add, subtract, or multiply
  • Can't arrange numbers from smallest to largest, or the opposite
  • Can't understand graphs

Exams and Tests

Standardized tests can assess the child's math ability. Grades and class performance can also help.

Treatment

The best treatment is special (remedial) education. Computer-based programs may also help.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Early intervention improves the chances of a better outcome.

Possible Complications

The child may have problems in school, including behavior problems and loss of self-esteem. Some children with mathematics disorder become anxious or afraid when given math problems, making the problem even worse.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have any concerns about your child's development.

Prevention

Recognizing the problem early is important. Treatment may begin as early as kindergarten or elementary school.

References

Kelly DP, Natale MJ. Neurodevelopmental function and dysfunction in the school-age child. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 32.

Nass R, Sidhu R, Ross G. Autism and other developmental disabilities. In: Daroff RB, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 90.

Rapin I. Dyscalculia and the calculating brain. Pediatr Neurol. 2016;61:11-20. PMID: 27515455 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27515455.

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          Review Date: 5/20/2018

          Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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