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Mathematics disorder

Definition

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

Alternative Names

Developmental dyscalculia

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

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

Mathematical disorder may appear with:

Symptoms

Early difficulties with arithmetic are noticed, as well as low scores in math classes and tests

Some of the problems seen include:

  • Trouble with reading, writing, and copying numbers
  • Problems counting and adding numbers, often making simple mistakes
  • Difficulty telling the difference between addition and subtraction
  • Problems understanding math symbols and word problems
  • Unable to line up numbers properly to add, subtract, or multiply
  • Unable to arrange numbers from smallest to largest, or the opposite
  • Unable to understand graphs

Signs and tests

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

Treatment

The best treatment is remedial education. Other programs that have been successful include "Project Math" and teaching computer skills.

Expectations (prognosis)

Early intervention improves the chances of a better outcome.

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.

Calling your health care provider

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

Prevention

Affected families should make every effort to recognize existing problems early. Intervention may begin as early as kindergarten or elementary school.

References

Kelly DP. Patterns of Development and Function in the School-Aged Child. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 30.


Review Date: 4/26/2010
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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