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Dyscalculia - or math dyslexia - needs more attention says neuroscientist

Dyscalculia is a similar learning disability as dyslexia but it is linked with mathematics as opposed to reading.

Individuals with dyscalculia struggle with simple calculations like 1 + 3

Those with dyscalculia will have trouble with simple calculations. (iStockphoto)

Dyscalculia is like dyslexia — but for those who have trouble with math instead of reading. 

But not enough people know about it, according to a neuroscientist.

"There is a lack of awareness among teachers and educators," said Daniel Ansari, professor and Canada Research Chair in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Western Ontario. 

Individuals with dyscalculia have trouble with simple calculations. 

"If I ask you what is 1 + 3, you don't need to calculate. Four will pop in to your head, it is stored in your long-term memory," he said. But those with dyscalculia will have to use their hands to count.

Scientists have known about dyscalculia since the 1940's but little research has been done on it, even though it is probably just as common as dyslexia, says Ansari. 

Currently, there is no existing universal form of testing for dyscalculia.

But Ansari has come up with screening tests for children in kindergarten. 

He says it's important to diagnose dyscalculia early on, so individuals can learn to adapt and improve their skills before it's too late. 

"We don't just need math to be good in school but to function in society," said Ansari. 

He says research has shown poor math skills can lead to an increased chance of unemployment, imprisonment or mortgage default.

Ansari is speaking at the Eaton Arrowsmith Neuroplasticity and Education Conference on Friday.

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled Dyscalculia needs more attention says neuroscientists with the CBC's Rick Cluff on The Early Edition.


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