# When numbers don’t make sense – child’s arithmetic

For the World Health Organization (WHO) it is a developmental disorder, for critics the reason is bad teaching. For children, it means a daily struggle. But what really helps with dyscalculia or arithmetic problems? Suggestions for parents.

How wide are ten centimeters? How far are ten meters? For many people these questions are relatively easy to assess, but some simply cannot imagine a number. It is difficult for them to compare or classify quantities and ratios.

Others understand tasks such as 3 + 4 = 7, but then cannot remember the calculation method. And for some students, all of this comes together. Make for yourself simple arithmetic tasks an insurmountable hurdle is.

Then, at the latest, one speaks of a serious computing disorder or dyscalculia. For affected children, math is the ultimate horror subject. This has nothing to do with intelligence: Dyscalculia, like dyslexia (poor reading and spelling), is a partial performance disorder, which means that those affected can have very good grades in other areas.

It is often recognized late in primary school that someone is suffering from dyscalculia. If the pupils can and should still work out solutions with their fingers at the beginning of school, this technique will no longer help them with larger numbers. Then, at the latest, it becomes apparent that the children never really calculated.

The Federal Association for Dyslexia and Dyscalculia e. V. (BVL) assumes that between 3 and 7 percent of children and adults in Germany are affected by arithmetic problems. But unlike dyslexia, research on dyscalculia is still in its infancy. It is believed that the responsible areas in the brain are poorly developed in children with severe arithmetic problems.

So there is a lot of catching up to do when it comes to finding the causes, but also when developing special support options: If dyslexics in many schools have local contacts, special support programs or simply more time in class work, children with arithmetic problems receive comparatively little support , Families do not have a legal entitlement to support and financial aid. The health insurance only pays the diagnosis, not the therapy. There are only a few exceptions. For many parents, this is simply not acceptable. The helplessness grows.

## Childhood arithmetic: illness or wrong learning method?

According to Annette Höinghaus from BVL, it is extremely important, to start with suitable support measures as early as possible, that go beyond normal tutoring. The stubborn practice of computing techniques and repeating the school content do not bring much.

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Compute students "can only learn arithmetic if they understand why a procedure works", also says mathematician didacticist Wolfram Meyerhöfer, who refuses to see dyscalculia as a disease for this very reason. He sees the cause of difficulties in arithmetic in poor teaching, which is boring and fixated on arithmetic techniques. The failure of the math lessons is interpreted as the student’s failure – and referred to as a disorder, said Meyerhöfer in the Spiegel interview, which is also the opinion of Jörg Kwapis, head of the Center for Therapy of Computational Weakness (ZTR) in Potsdam, and says that the lesson is right is very much based on correct results and too little on understanding.

Miriam Lüken, professor of mathematics didactics at Bielefeld University, also sees the cause of poor child arithmetic in poor teaching and rejects the term dyscalculia. It sounds like an incurable disease and gives children the feeling, "never to learn arithmetic anyway" (Https://www.zeit.de/2014/38/dyskalkulie-mathematik-krankheit).

### Childhood arithmetic: What can parents do now??

If dyscalculia is suspected, they are Child’s teacher a good contact. It is important that children can understand and use the various basic arithmetic operations. Because mathematical skills build on one another, one step follows the other. Pupils who don’t master the basics find it extremely difficult to get back on later steps.

As a result, they can no longer keep up with the class, need much more time to solve the math problems than their classmates and move from hour to hour. This demotivates in the long run, creates psychosomatic symptoms such as headache or stomach ache and damages the children’s self-confidence. So parents should respond to alarm signals and speak to teachers or get objective advice.

Symptoms of arithmetic weakness can include:

• Difficulty in dealing with units of measure and quantity
• Confusion of the calculation types
• Difficulty assigning quantities and numbers
• Difficulty writing numbers correctly and reading the clock
• Difficulties in translating word problems into mathematical contexts
• Problems with the decimal system

The contact person for suspected dyscalculia is in most cases Child and adolescent psychiatrist and child and adolescent psychotherapists. They carry out computer test procedures and intelligence tests, compare them with family situations and other external factors and make a diagnosis. However, this process is increasingly criticized and considered "arbitrarily" titled. Nevertheless, the tests offer a first orientation, especially when it comes to whether children should receive additional support.

### Diagnosis: Dyscalculia – Therapy of child weakness

The classic way is one Dyscalculia therapy, in which the psychotherapeutic work is combined with targeted learning training – this means that in addition to learning strategies, the mental stability of the children is promoted. The therapy usually takes place in individual sessions.

Choosing the right method for your child is not easy for most parents. There are many funding programs, and the job profile "learning therapist" is not recognized. That is why the BVL checks the quality and transparency of therapists and awards it BVL certificate. Parents can search for suitable therapists on the BVL website. Parents should also get advice on site from associations for dyscalculia.