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Mathematics Disorder


What is mathematics disorder?

Mathematics disorder is a learning disorder. Children with this disorder have math skills is much lower than average for their age, intelligence, and education. The disorder affects the child's success at school. It is thought that up to 7% of children have this disorder. It affects boys and girls equally. It is also caused dyscalculia.

How does it occur?

The cause of this disorder is not known. Like other learning disorders, it occurs more in some families. Mathematics disorder may also be the result of damage in certain parts of the brain.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of mathematics disorder (based on what is average for the child's age, education, and intelligence) include problems with:

  • doing simple math
  • counting
  • telling time and understanding time limits
  • poor sense of direction (north, south, east, west)
  • putting numbers in order
  • remembering numbers
  • knowing the difference between concepts like addition and subtraction

Children with mathematics disorder may be good at reading and writing, but have trouble with calculating, counting, or estimating.

How is it diagnosed?

Children with this disorder may start school with the same level of math skills as their peers. But by the first or second grade, when they are expected to master more math skills, their problems usually become apparent. However, in children who are doing well in other areas, the disorder might go undiscovered until around fifth grade.

If you suspect that your child has a math disorder, contact your school principal or counselor to request and evaluation. The child may be referred to a professional qualified to assess learning disorders. The child and the parents will then meet with a qualified school psychologist or special education worker who will run a tests including IQ and math tests. The parents will be asked about the child's behavior, success at school, and any family history of learning disabilities. Your child will be evaluated to see if there are other problems such as ADHD or other learning disabilities.

How is it treated?

Once a diagnosis is made, you and your child can discuss treatment options with the healthcare provider or therapist.

Mathematics disorder is usually treated by giving the child special instruction in math and having the child devote extra time to learning math skills. Most school districts have special programs to help children with learning disorders. Find out what services are available through the school district or your community to help children who have a hard time with math.

An important part of treatment for a child with mathematics disorder is boosting self-esteem through support and encouragement. The child should be praised for his or her efforts and for any gains, no matter how small, in learning math skills.

How long do the effects last?

Grade school children with this disorder will have to put extra effort into improving their math skills. By high school, some children will have improved their math skills and will no longer have a hard time doing math. Teenagers who continue to struggle with math are at risk of losing all interest in learning it. They may become too discouraged to try to acquire the basic math skills most adults need. Their lack of math skills may limit their career choices.

What can I do to help my child?

  • Teach your child not to be embarrassed about having mathematics disorder. It does not mean that he or she is not intelligent.
  • Spend regular time at home working with your child on math skills.

Written by Psychiatric Professional Services, Inc.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-02-11
Last reviewed: 2010-12-02

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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