Synonyms in a broader sense

  • Arithmetic weakness
  • Arithmasthenia
  • Acalculia
  • Learning impairment in mathematics
  • Learning difficulties in math class
  • Problems in math


The term "Dyscalculia" comes from the Greek. The prefix “dys” means difficult, difficult, “kalkulie”, on the other hand, means: to calculate, to consider, to consider.
As with the Dyslexia dyscalculia is a Partial disorderthat can occur with normal or above average intelligence. Dyscalculia encompasses problems in basic math, such as basic arithmetic.

The Differentiation of dyscalculia is often difficult because arithmetic problems also arise in children with general poor performance and problems in other subjects that do not really fall into the field of dyscalculia.

Similar to dyslexia, which is only a part of the LRS (= reading and writing impairment) it is the same with dyscalculia and arithmetic weaknesses. Reading and spelling weaknesses encompass the entire problem area in reading and spelling. Problems in other school areas are also possible.
The entire complex of problems in mathematics can be recognized as a numeracy weakness. As with reading and spelling weaknesses, further problems are conceivable in other learning fields. In the case of dyscalculia, the problems are limited to the sub-area of ​​mathematics. As in the case of dyslexia, one speaks of a partial performance disorder or partial performance weakness.


Many children have problems with arithmetic (mathematics in general), only a few, an estimated 5 - 10%, fall into the category of dyscalculia.
The question of gender distribution cannot be clearly assessed. Studies examining gender distribution came to different conclusions.


The content of mathematics lessons and the way of teaching has been developed over centuries. The origins of all computing can be found as early as the 3rd century BC, both among the ancient Egyptians as well as among the Babylonians. In the beginning, computing was strictly following rules without questioning a specific why. Questioning why has become increasingly important and is of particular importance today - especially after the PISA study results have been published.
To learn more about the historical development, please click on History of mathematics.


As with reading and spelling weaknesses and dyslexia, a multi-causal approach is also used here. On the one hand, this means that the causes of the problems with arithmetic are broad and, above all, interrelated.

1. Social factors:

  • Causes in the family area (conflicts in the family area, cultural differences, lack of experience, unfavorable living conditions)
  • Causes in the school area (e.g. deficiencies in school organization, teacher - student relationship, etc.)
  • neurotic - psychogenic causes (e.g .: anxiety, fear - defense mechanisms, aggressive behavior, apathy)

2. Constitutional causes:

  • Evidence of genetic inheritance
  • Minimal cerebral dysfunction (MCD)
  • Evidence of a different organization of cerebral activity
  • Weaknesses of perception
  • gender differences
  • Development deficits
  • Poor numeracy due to lack of practice

Find out more about the topic of learning disabilities in children


Symptoms are always of an individual nature and this is often the problem in the context of early detection of learning problems. As a result, the list is not to be understood as a complete catalog, the symptoms of which must be found in every child. The following list is only intended to show which symptoms may occur. It is up to you to decide whether they apply to your child.

Causes in the area of ​​social and family conditions:

  • lack of perseverance and motivation to perform
  • bad work posture
  • language problems
  • lack of self-confidence
  • ...

Causes in the school area:

  • Fear of failure
  • too low / too high level of performance
  • lack of schooling
  • Gaps in the area of ​​basic arithmetic operations (also: inadequate ability to understand and penetrate a matter of fact: stubborn application of learned mechanisms without having understood the principle
  • Training of subjective algorithms
  • ...

Causes in the neurotic - psychogenic area:

  • Anxiety / lack of self-confidence
  • Defense Mechanisms
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Apathy / disinterest
  • ...

Causes in the constitutional area (see above):

  • Motor abnormalities
  • Mental blocks
  • visual perception disorders
  • Difficult information processing: speech, perception, thinking function and / or memory weaknesses or impaired motor skills.)
  • Difficulties in the field of automation (automated practice is an essential area in mathematics lessons)
  • ...

Basic arithmetic

Errors that manifest themselves in the mathematical field can be diverse. Often, however, it becomes apparent in mathematically weak children that they are bound to the point of view longer than other children and thus have to internalize the concrete, active structure of an operation longer.
Especially in the first two school years, in which the number ranges (up to 20, later up to 100) are worked out through addition and subtraction, later also through multiplication and division and the systematic structure of the decadal system is internalized, the level of action is an essential element in the structure of the mathematical understanding of every child.
The four basic arithmetic operations are particularly easy to verbalize ...

Other terms to clarify the basic arithmetic operations

  • addition
    • Add
    • fold
    • complete
    • to push
    • these include
    • multiply
    • ...
  • subtraction
    • take away
    • put away
    • push away
    • count back
    • Reduce
    • ...
  • multiplication
    • ... times as much
    • unite equal quantities
    • enlarge
    • ...
  • division
    • split up
    • to distribute
    • ...

... and implement it actively:

At this level, a child with poor numeracy stays longer, whereby each child should be given the opportunity to refer to materials for clarification in the event of problems (return to the enactive level).
Only through a consistent penetration of the basic mathematical arithmetic and the opportunity to clarify these mathematical problems with different materials offers the children the possibility of understanding and not just the possibility of stupidly applying mathematical rules and laws. Only those who have understood WHY are able to use arithmetic methods again and again in different situations (factual tasks) and to extend them to other number ranges (in primary school: natural numbers up to a million).

With the help of verbalization and acting, the child's mistakes in thinking can be recognized and corrected at an early stage (on the level of active action). Have your child describe how they came to their solution and allow their way of thinking as long as it has been properly thought through. If it is too complicated, you can of course make it clear to your child that there are simpler ways that lead them to their goal - perhaps also more safely. But never give him the feeling that his arithmetic is “completely idiotic” or “totally wrong”. Here, too, the sound makes the music and can decide whether your child accepts the well-intentioned advice.
Only when the child has understood how computational processes “work” in active (active) interaction, can one move on to the iconic and symbolic level. In some cases, it is also advisable to combine the enactive and iconic levels in the event that the action level has to be dwelled for a long time.

In the area Symptoms of dyscalculia learn more about the different types of errors and the common mistakes students make in the field of basic arithmetic. Tips on dealing with these errors and ways to provide your child with basic help can be found on the page Early detection of weaknesses in numeracy.


In the discussion about the term dyscalculia, it is often demanded to do without it completely and to change it through the terminology "Difficulties in learning to calculate" to replace, because labeling, stigmatizing or even pathologizing should be avoided.
It is important next to the causes In the basal area (congenital and neuropsychological causes), the sociocultural and family conditions must also be considered, because the school factors and the emotional problems of a child can and should be used in the context of research into the causes. This means that the demarcation of dyscalculia from other problems in math class is appropriate ICD 10 can take place, but other important components of the root cause research should be included, as they could be very important for the therapy.
A Early detection of the problem is central. In addition to serious mathematical problems, symptomatic secondary symptoms (abnormal behavior, etc.) can have less of an impact.
Due to the diverse causes, which in turn cause different symptoms, one should Therapy always individual be tailored. Individual therapies are therefore preferable to any group therapy, since further diagnoses should always be made during therapy and the therapy should be adjusted accordingly.
In addition to the individual therapy, further therapeutic approaches may be necessary (see below).

Definitions for understanding

Failure analysis:
It is important to understand how the child thinks. Understanding the path of thought is a first step to turn off the so-called “subjective algorithms” and replace them with “correct” solutions.

Time, patience and suitable materials are required to replace the subjective algorithms, so to speak, a child's own solutions with common solutions. The need for intuition is based on the involvement of several senses. The UNDERSTAND in the sense of an active doing plays an important role here, since not everything happens and has to be achieved in the child's imagination. Depending on the thematic focus, there are different ways of viewing it. Some common materials for the enactive (acting) penetration of individual areas are named below.