7 Helpful Dyscalculia Coping Mechanisms For Adults

Dyscalculia Coping Mechanisms For Adults

It’s not uncommon for people to struggle with maths and maths anxiety, but for individuals with dyscalculia, a specific maths-related learning disability, processing and understanding numbers and maths concepts can become so challenging that it affects self-esteem and everyday life.

It is estimated that approximately three to seven per cent of the population has the condition. However, it often goes undiagnosed in many adults.

The way dyscalculia manifests can differ from one person to another, with some struggling with complex math concepts and others facing troubles with more simple mathematical arithmetic. However, many individuals face challenges with both.

If you are an adult who has recently been diagnosed with dyscalculia or if you have struggled with maths your entire life and believe you could have the neurodiverse condition, this guide will look at various helpful coping mechanisms.

This will put you in a better position to manage your dyscalculia more effectively in your personal and professional life.

Dyscalculia Explained

Dyscalculia is a maths-related learning disability. It can affect an individual’s ability to learn mathematical facts and understand numbers.

That being said, those with dyscalculia can face maths troubles at various levels.

For instance, some struggle with concepts such as “bigger vs. smaller,” finding it extremely challenging to complete basic maths exercises.

Others may be able to complete simpler maths tasks but find it very hard to complete more abstract maths assignments.

Unlike dyslexia, dyscalculia is not as well understood, but many experts believe it is just as common.

Currently, it is not clear whether dyscalculia is more prevalent in girls or boys, with specialists believing there is little to no difference.

That being said, research into the cause of the condition is around 30 years behind that of dyslexia.

Various terms are used for dyscalculia, including:

  • Mathematics learning disorder
  • Mathematics learning disability

Some confuse it with dyslexia, but this is misleading, as dyslexic individuals face challenges with reading and writing, whilst those with dyscalculia tend to struggle with maths solely.

Nevertheless, around 60 per cent of people with dyslexia also face challenges with maths.

Although more research is needed, it is believed dyscalculia is connected to the functioning of the left intraparietal sulcus, the part of the brain that works with numbers, and the front lobe, the part that deals with reasoning. This leads experts to believe that it can be hereditary.

Coping Mechanisms For Adults With Dyscalculia

It can be very challenging to cope with this difficulty, so how do you overcome dyscalculia in adults?

Fortunately, there are various strategies and coping mechanisms that individuals can use to navigate daily life and to work more effectively.

Many of these strategies are used on children with dyscalculia and have been shown to help adults.

1. Drawing exercises

If you are finding a particular maths exercise challenging to understand, you can try “drawing through” the maths exercise using images. These act as a visual aid, reflecting your understanding of the maths concept and help work out ways to solve it.

2. Visualise patterns

Failing to remember pins and number sequences is quite common in those with dyscalculia.

One way of coping with this is to visualise patterns. For instance, if you struggle to remember your credit card’s PIN, you can visualise a pattern on the keypad.

This way, you can associate specific numbers with a sequence, forming a mental image. Therefore, it will become easier to recall and navigate through various numerical combinations.

3. Use real-life cues and objects

Adults can draw on more life experiences than children when coping with dyscalculia. And it is these very experiences that can be used to make maths relevant to you.

It is possible to make more sense of a concept and see the relationship between numbers by manipulating various props or objects.

For instance, you could use a measuring cup to grasp the concept of volume or utilise a ruler to visually demonstrate geometric patterns through measurements and comparisons.

The use of manipulatives, such as Numicon, base 10 blocks, and beads, has been very effective when it comes to teaching adults with dyscalculia.

By using physical objects, individuals can understand certain concepts via a tangible representation.

4. Use devices

As an adult, you will have certain tools and devices at your disposal that can help your dyscalculia. These can help you become more independent and prepare better for the workplace.

An example would be using a phone calculator to perform quick calculations rather than learning equations or doing column subtraction.

Devices can also be used to efficiently manage budgeting, expenses, and other numerical tasks without the additional stress often associated with dyscalculia.

5. Build connections between symbols, maths images/concepts, and language

Creating connections between symbols, numbers, language, and maths concepts can be very helpful for those with dyscalculia.

This connection approach is often used for children, but it has proven to be very effective in adults. It helps people grasp concepts that may have been too difficult to understand before.

Of course, everyone has particular needs and will require different resources to represent a particular concept.

See also: Games and tools for dyscalculia.

6. Time management

Many adults with dyscalculia struggle to manage their time effectively. Therefore, it is essential to allocate extra time for tasks that involve mathematical elements.

Maths tasks can be broken down into smaller time intervals to lower stress and anxiety levels. This can also help a person become more focused on the task at hand, giving them a step-by-step approach. In time, effective time management can enhance comprehension of mathematical processes and overall efficiency.

7. Positive mindset

When we make mistakes, our brains are growing, according to Jo Boaler, an author of 18 mathematical texts.

Therefore, you should embrace mistakes and cultivate a positive mindset. Recognise personal achievements, no matter how small they may be.

And, whether it is in maths or non-maths areas, focus on your abilities and strengths.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with dyscalculia as an adult can be frustrating and challenging, but it does not have to act as a barrier to a fulfilling, successful life, both personally and professionally.

Many adults with dyscalculia use the above coping mechanisms and go on to excel in maths-related fields, such as music, writing, and art.

If you are looking for a dyscalculia diagnosis, we can help. Click here to book an assessment, or call us on 01633 439 220.