Mathematics Disorder

What is a mathematics disorder?

Students with a mathematics disorder have problems with their math skills. Their math skills are significantly below normal considering the student's age, intelligence, and education. The poor math skills cause problems with the student's academic success and other important areas in the student's life.

What signs indicate a mathematics disorder?

Students with mathematics disorder have problems which can include the following:

  • Writing or printing numbers
  • Counting
  • Adding and subtracting
  • Working with mathematical signs such as +, -, x, and /
  • Learning names that include numbers

Students who suffer from mathematics disorders frequently have:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Social problems
  • Increased dropout rate at school

Mathematics disorders may also be associated with:

  • Conduct disorder
  • Depression
  • Other learning disorders

Are there genetic factors associated with a mathematics disorder?

It is possible that some people have problems in math because of their genetic makeup. In contrast to some families whose members have great difficulty solving math problems, there are other families who tend to have members that consistently have a very high-level of math functioning.

At what age does mathematics disorder appear?

Mathematics disorder is usually brought to the attention of the child?s parents in second or third grade when math instruction becomes a very important part of the classroom teaching.

How often is mathematics disorder seen in our society?

Although it is difficult to determine exactly, about one percent (1%) of children in the United States suffer from a mathematics disorder.

How is mathematics disorder diagnosed?

Mathematics disorder may be discovered when a student shows poor functioning in several math skills. For instance, if a student has difficulty understanding and working with various math terms and concepts or identifying arithmetic symbols and signs, the student may have mathematics disorder. Also, mathematics disorder may be indicated when the child is unable to attend to details such as carrying numbers or has problems counting and memorizing the multiplication tables.

Although standardized, group testing is important, it alone should not be relied on in making this diagnosis. It is very important that special, psychoeducational tests be individually administered to the child to determine if this learning disorder is present. In administering the test the examiner should give special attention to the child?s ethnic and cultural background.

How is a mathematics disorder treated?

Treatment for mathematics disorder includes individual tutoring, placement in special math classrooms with expert math teachers, and other educational aids that focus on math skills.

What happens to someone with a mathematics disorder?

The course of mathematics disorder is varied. Some students go on to do well in math. Others, even with early intervention and remedial attention, continue to struggle with math in their adult years.

What can people do if they need help?

If you, a friend, or a family member would like more information and you have a therapist or a physician, please discuss your concerns with that person.

Source: John L. Miller, MD

Reviewed by athealth on February 5, 2014.