Dyscalculia in adults may not be as well-known as dyslexia but can be just as challenging. Dyscalculia is a learning disorder that affects an individual's ability to process math concepts efficiently. Roughly 3 to 7% of the population has dyscalculia. It often goes undiagnosed in adults.
Dyscalculia manifests differently from person to person. Some have no trouble with simple arithmetic but struggle with more complex math concepts. Others may have difficulty with both.
If you're an adult who has struggled with math throughout your life, you may have dyscalculia. But don’t worry – many people with dyscalculia go on to lead successful lives, and can even be more creative, strategic, and intuitive than their peers. They often excel in non-math-related fields such as writing, music, and art.
Professionals can diagnose dyscalculia starting around age 6 when numbers are becoming more familiar. However, it's easy for many adults to live with dyscalculia without realizing they have it. Some develop workarounds to help them cope, effectively masking their symptoms.
For example, an individual with dyscalculia may use their fingers to keep track of numbers or avoid using numbers altogether. Others may develop an intense fear of math or any activity that requires them to do calculations. Over time, their dyscalculia symptoms may be concealed as they learn to avoid or work around situations involving math.
Dyscalculia shares many symptoms with other learning disorders. 60% of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also have a learning disability such as dyscalculia.
If you're an adult who suspects you may have dyscalculia, the first step is to seek out a professional assessment. A professional diagnosis involves a battery of tests, focused on basic math skills. Your specialist may also conduct tests on reading, writing, and cognitive skills. They'll also gather information on your educational history and any struggles you may have experienced in school.
For many adults with undiagnosed dyscalculia, even acknowledging the possibility of dyscalculia can be a huge step towards finding the help you need.
Making math mistakes isn't enough to diagnose dyscalculia. Your specialist will instead focus on the frequency, variety, and persistence of symptoms to make a diagnosis.
Here are four common symptoms of dyscalculia in adults:
Difficulty with basic arithmetic operations
Many adults have no problem admitting they're bad at math. But for those with dyscalculia, the difficulties run deeper. Solving basic math problems, like addition and subtraction, can be a challenge for many. Everyday activities like grocery shopping or balancing a budget can be next to impossible for some. Although many adults with dyscalculia get by with the help of calculators and other tools, some may feel as if they're struggling to keep up with everyone else. Such feelings can contribute to increased anxiety and frustration.
If simple calculations you make daily still have you looking to your fingers for help, you may want to see a dyscalculia specialist. Note that not all adults with dyscalculia experience difficulties with basic arithmetic. Some have more specific struggles with fractions, algebra, or geometry. So, don't rule out dyscalculia based on your ability (or inability) to do basic arithmetic in your head.
Inability to estimate quantities or time
Because of their math difficulties, time management can also be a common issue for adults with dyscalculia. Individuals with severe dyscalculia may find it hard to estimate how long tasks will take them. This can make planning and meeting deadlines difficult, impacting both their personal and professional lives.
Estimating quantities can also be a slog for adults with dyscalculia. For example, you may have difficulty gauging how much food is needed to make a recipe or how much gasoline is needed to fill up your car's tank.
If you find yourself frequently underestimating or overestimating quantities, it could be a sign of dyscalculia.
Poor understanding of money and financial concepts
The challenges adults with dyscalculia face with math also affect how they think about money. Making sense of financial concepts like taxes, interest, and investments can be difficult for some. Others find it hard to stick to a budget or make sound financial decisions. Adults with dyscalculia may also have trouble counting change, reading a pay stub, or understanding basic banking concepts.
Without proper diagnosis and treatment, the difficulties adults with dyscalculia face with money can lead to financial instability later in life.
Spatial orientation issues
Adults with dyscalculia can have trouble orienting themselves in space. That means they may have trouble with activities that require them to visualize objects in three dimensions. Such issues manifest in several ways, such as:
- Difficulties judging distances or sizes
- Difficulties telling distinct numbers apart
- Difficulties understanding maps
- Difficulties with directions
Fortunately, many strategies can help adults with dyscalculia improve their spatial skills. They may benefit from using objects to visualize mathematical concepts, or using spatial reasoning tasks to develop their problem-solving abilities.
There's no shame in having dyscalculia. With the proper accommodations and support, dyscalculia doesn't have to stand in the way of your success. If you believe you may have dyscalculia, a professional evaluation should be your first step.
Marker Learning commits to making quality evaluations accessible and affordable to all. Our tests are administered virtually, enabling us to reach individuals anywhere in the United States. Get an accurate diagnosis from our team of board-certified psychologists today and receive a diagnosis and action plan in just two weeks—at just 1/4 the price of a standard in-person evaluation. No waitlists!
Call us at 1-888-291-3587 or email us to book a free consult today. Whether you're an adult seeking answers for yourself or your child has math difficulties, we can help!