BACKGROUND: Dyscalculia is defined as difficulty acquiring basic arithmetic skills that is not explained by low intelligence or inadequate schooling. About 5% of children in primary schools are affected. Dyscalculia does not improve without treatment.
METHODS: In this article, we selectively review publications on dyscalculia from multiple disciplines (medicine, psychology, neuroscience, education/special education).
RESULTS: Many children and adolescents with dyscalculia have associated cognitive dysfunction (e.g., impairment of working memory and visuospatial skills), and 20% to 60% of those affected have comorbid disorders such as dyslexia or attention deficit disorder. The few interventional studies that have been published to date document the efficacy of pedagogic-therapeutic interventions directed toward specific problem areas. The treatment is tailored to the individual patient's cognitive functional profile and severity of manifestations. Psychotherapy and/or medication are sometimes necessary as well.
CONCLUSION: The early identification and treatment of dyscalculia are very important in view of its frequent association with mental disorders. Sufferers need a thorough, neuropsychologically oriented diagnostic evaluation that takes account of the complexity of dyscalculia and its multiple phenotypes and can thus provide a basis for the planning of effective treatment.