ADHD & Dyscalculia

ADHD & Dyscalculia

 Are you struggling with math problems and think it might be more than just a dislike for numbers? Dive into our comprehensive guide to understand the intricate relationship between ADHD and dyscalculia. Uncover symptoms, coping strategies, and tips for parents and teachers. Let's decode the math mystery together!

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Alice Gendron

Founder of The Mini ADHD Coach

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Unpacking the Relationship Between Dyscalculia and ADHD

Do you have ADHD? If so, there's a good chance that math might not be your strong suit—and you're not alone. Research suggests that many people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) struggle with dyscalculia, a specific math learning disability. 

But why do these two conditions often come as a pair? 🤷Are children and adults with ADHD doomed to struggle with math concepts forever? Or is there a way to master our math skills and feel comfortable around numbers? 

Dive in as we explore the prevalence of dyscalculia in the ADHD community and offer insights on overcoming these math hurdles. 💪

What is Dyscalculia?

Ever feel like numbers are a foreign language? 🤯 Dyscalculia, a math learning disability, turns simple tasks like counting or understanding fractions into Herculean challenges. For many people with ADHD, this issue can often multiply. Math isn't just a school subject; it's a real-world skill.

Imagine struggling to calculate change while shopping or dreading arithmetic tests in school - those with dyscalculia face these challenges head-on. Add ADHD symptoms into the mix, and recalling math facts and formulas becomes a full-blown mission, complete with test anxiety and performance fears. 😰

So, what's the connection between dyscalculia and ADHD? As we explore further, you'll find that it's not just about numbers - it's related to how our unique learning styles and ADHD symptoms appear alongside each other. ➕

Symptoms of Dyscalculia 

Struggling with numbers isn't just a vague feeling—it comes with a set of telltale signs. 

Here's a closer look at the symptoms of dyscalculia. ⬇️

  • Difficulties making sense of basic arithmetic concepts 
  • Trouble counting, even in simple tasks such as when you are required to count objects, particularly if someone is talking to you and affecting your ability to focus
  • Challenges comprehending fractions and decimals 
  • Lack of ‘number sense’, which refers to the ability to understand, relate, and connect numbers
  • Avoidance of anything involving numbers that come up in everyday life due to fear of math; for example, asking a partner to take over a task that involves complex mathematics

For those dealing with ADHD and a learning disability like dyscalculia or other learning disabilities such as dyslexia, these symptoms can feel like a double-edged sword. ⚔️ These difficulties can lead to having a tough time not only in math class but also everyday situations like shopping or calculating change. It's like numbers have their secret code you're trying to decipher. 🧐

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The Connection Between Numbers and The ADHD Brain

Many people with ADHD have trouble learning, due to struggling with things like focus and attention. However, there is evidence to suggest that having an ADHD diagnosis puts children at an increased risk of a learning disorder or learning difficulties compared to the general population. ❣️

ADHD is related to executive function deficits, resulting in difficulties with working memory, understanding the task at hand and processing speed. 🧠 This means the battle centers on memorizing and recalling math facts rather than understanding the underlying concepts. 

The challenge of grasping math can be intensified for people with ADHD due to a lower tolerance for frustration, often leading them to throw in the towel more quickly. Additionally, the emotional toll of making mistakes or facing rejection tends to hit them harder. 🤕 

Real-world Math Challenges: How Dyscalculia Can Affect People With ADHD

Low Self-Esteem and Math Anxiety

For many of us with ADHD, everyday tasks can feel like daunting challenges instead of opportunities for growth. If you're also dealing with dyscalculia, these worries can hit even harder, chipping away at our self-esteem and leaving us feeling hopeless. 😞

Even simple tasks, like reading an analog clock, may take longer to accomplish, leading to time blindness and being late. It's as if this learning disorder makes everything more complicated, making us second-guess ourselves.

On top of that, math anxiety can be a significant concern for those of us grappling with ADHD and dyscalculia. 😰The pressure of performing well academically and the complexities of these learning challenges can crank up our stress levels and send our anxiety soaring. 🚀 These emotional aspects affect how we see ourselves, making us doubt our abilities and feel like we're not good enough. 

Struggling in School

Navigating the math classroom when you have ADHD and dyscalculia is like juggling while riding a unicycle - each skill demanding yet different. The experience varies from struggling with basic counting to the dread of multiplying numbers ✖️when those trusty times tables just haven't stuck. And as if the math problems aren't enough, the social perception by other students, teachers, and even ourselves adds stress, anxiety, and feelings of inadequacy. 

However, there's a silver lining: specialized teaching techniques can make a world of difference. 👍 Hands-on, visual, and experiential learning approaches better resonate with these students and offer them the scaffolding they need for effective problem-solving. 

To top it off, mastering the role of working memory in learning - through strategies like chunking, repetition, and mnemonic devices - can significantly reduce the cognitive load. 🥳 With consistent practice and targeted guidance, students with ADHD and dyscalculia can mitigate these challenges, ultimately paving the way for a more confident and less stressful math journey. 🤓

Other strategies can also lend a helping hand in our numerical adventures, and the best part is they're not confined to the classroom or limited by age. 👇

A Guide to Coping and Supporting Those with ADHD and Dyscalculia

As someone who's struggled with math since I was a child, I’ve learned that understanding and patience goes a long way. The thing is, people with ADHD and dyscalculia are not slow or lazy learners; we just have our own unique operating systems for processing information. 

For example, when I was at school, I was great at many other subjects. 🤓I frequently had a report card full of A’s and B’s - as long as it didn’t involve math, I was able to keep up with the other kids, even if I had trouble with focus and memory.

But when it came to math class, my teacher would get frustrated with me because I’d spend the class getting easily distracted and talking through the lesson or distracting the other students. 😬It wasn’t that I was a ‘bad’ child - it was just that the way the teacher relayed information wasn’t compatible with my ADHD brain. 🤷

Having a diagnosis of ADHD requires us to discover what learning method is best for our brains, especially if we have a learning disability such as dyscalculia or dyslexia. 

If you struggle with dyscalculia (or another learning disorder) alongside ADHD, there are a few things you can try to make life easier. ⬇️

Get Support

Feeling like you're lagging behind can be isolating, but you're far from alone. Reach out to teachers, parents, or even your friends to share what you're going through. Looping others into your world builds a support system and opens doors to resources you might not have considered. 💌

Schedule some one-on-one tutoring sessions with your teacher if classroom learning feels too overwhelming, or reach out to a math tutor experienced in learning disorders such as dyscalculia and dyslexia. This focused time could enable the tutor to tailor their teaching method to your unique way of learning. 🧠

Try Some ADHD Brain Hacks

Working memory is essential for learning but often needs extra attention with ADHD. Whether using specialized ADHD tools, a planner or setting reminders on your phone, having a system can be like having a personal assistant reminding you of formulas, deadlines, and more. 📱

If you need help with focus, divide your tasks into smaller, manageable sections. As for math skills, don't underestimate the power of consistent practice. Work on those simpler equations regularly to level up your math game. If you hit a wall, remember that asking for help is not a sign of defeat but a step towards victory. 🎖️

Take Your Time

Finally, let's talk about the intricacies of counting, especially when money is involved.💰 Try solving the problems independently first, then double or triple-check your answers with a calculator. 

ADHD has a knack for making us overlook the fine details, which can be critical in math. Double-checking is more than a precaution; it's a strategy to ensure you're on the right track. So, before you move on to the next question, thoroughly review your work. ✅


Whether it's building a support network, applying some clever brain hacks, or taking your time to double-check that tricky equation, there are ways to navigate ADHD and dyscalculia. 💪Remember, these conditions don't define you; they're merely part of who you are due to your brain being wired slightly differently. 🧠

Having dyscalculia doesn't mean you can't achieve great things. If anything, overcoming obstacles only adds to your story, making your triumphs more inspiring. So, whether you're decoding college algebra or trying to remember where you left your calculator, always know you've got this. 😉

As you embrace strategies tailored to your needs, you're not just solving math problems but also unlocking your potential to achieve other things. 📈

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ADHD and Dyscalculia: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Why do some people with ADHD have difficulties in learning math?

ADHD impacts working memory, crucial for memorizing math facts and formulas. This makes tasks like long division or even counting objects more challenging. Many children and even adults with ADHD also struggle with dyscalculia, a specific math learning disorder, although it's not a given for everyone with ADHD.

Does struggling with math affect mental health?

Absolutely. Dyscalculia and ADHD-related math difficulties can lead to math anxiety and stress in school and everyday tasks like grocery shopping. This has a cascading effect on students' mental health and self-image.

What are some strategies to combat ADHD-related math difficulties and dyscalculia?

First and foremost, a proper diagnosis is essential. Using the right tools, such as phone reminders, can aid working memory, while calculators can assist with challenging arithmetic tasks. Consultation with teachers and healthcare experts offers tailored support for learning disabilities and helps make sense of math questions.

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