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Luis Garcia, Photo Editor

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There are some people, incredibly intelligent people, no less who suffer from a learning problem associated with the inability to handle numbers and mathematical calculations.

Just as dyslexia is a learning disability that inhibits the recognition of words and sentences, dyscalculia is a neurocognitive learning problem associated with the inability to handle numbers. Most dyscalculics are good writers, have vast imaginations and tend to see the whole picture of a situation. It affects one in 20 people, can damage their confidence and frequently leads to humiliation of counting on one’s fingers. Although not much is known about dyscalculia, it is thought to be biological, and research has shown it is possible to correct it to some extent if it is identified in early childhood.

“Dyscalculia is a dysfunction with calculations. A person who has average or above average intelligence and who is otherwise skilled and knowledgeable in other areas has very great difficulty when it comes to how their brain processes information when it comes to symbolic reasoning or long-term retrieval. Whatever that affects them mathematically, can be due to a number of different syndromes within learning disabilities,” said Joyce Kirst, Academic Development professor and BC learning disabilities specialist.

“Dyscalculia has a strong genetic link and also manifests itself outside the classroom,” says Kirst. Like dyslexia, dycalculia is a condition people are born with and may be heritable in some cases. It is also possible to correct it to some extent if it is identified in early childhood. Discalculics are unable to read time on analog clocks and have poor ability to budget or balance a checkbook. Some have trouble with concepts of time, such as sticking to a schedule, which is responsible for constantly making them late. Most dyscalculics are unaware they have it and claim they have a phobia. Dyscalculia is listed as a disorder on the International Classification of Diseases 10th edition’s website.

In order to diagnose dyscalculia, an individual must first acknowledge they might have a learning disability, and then he or she must become his or her own advocate to seek further help. Methods of diagnosis differ widely, but in general, students are interviewed about a full range of math-related skills and behaviors. The evaluation compares a person’s expected and actual levels of skill and understanding while noting the specific strengths and weaknesses.

Interim director of Disabled Student Program and Services Ellen Young says many schools have policies to modify students’ curriculum to make transferring easier. “A number of accommodations may be appropriate. It depends on the individual and their own learning profile. Sometimes these help and sometimes they don’t, so it really has to be individualized.” Some accommodations include: providing extra time on exams, extra tutoring and a designated note taker in class. “BC is lucky in that we have the math lab for some of the developmental levels of math. Students can take more than one semester if needed to take things at their own pace,” said Young. She added that the accommodations are not a “guaranteed free ride” for dyscalculics and students will still have to put in effort in their courses. Young went on to say though that students must not over diagnose and make themselves believe that they have dyscalculia because of a lack motivation to attend classes and complete assignments.

Dyscalculia also affects the most successful people, such as: Benjamin Franklin, Bill Gates, Mary Tyler Moore, Cher, Thomas Edison and even the man credited as “father of rocket science,” Wernher Von Braun.

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