What are the strengths of dyscalculic people?

We all know the difficulties that come with dyscalculia, but does it also have some advantages? If yes, then what are they?

Lately, more and more people are talking about the necessity of acknowledging the strengths of people with Specific Learning Disorders, but when it comes to describing what exactly they mean by it, they often struggle to find the answer. There are numerous articles about general things like creativity, but it is difficult to find specific information in them. Let us shed some light on the positive sides of dyscalculia and debunk the myths about them.

Fresh ideas

Creativity is probably the most popularly discussed strength of people with Specific Learning Disorders. It is widely believed that dyscalculic people are especially talented when it comes to arts, crafts, and literature. This is often connected with the opinion that there are different, strictly divided parts of the brain responsible for counting and for creative things. When one of them is weaker, the second one gets stronger.

According to modern scientists, the reality is much more complicated. The old theory about “left brain” and “right brain” having two very different functions, has long been rejected. Some people are bad at math while being brilliant in other fields, but that is not the rule. This might change in the future, but for now, there is no exact proof that dyscalculic brains are generally better at creating new concepts.

That said, there is a lot of truth in the observation that dyscalculic people have new, fresh ideas that can be used to succeed in the creative fields. It is, nonetheless, less because of the differences in brain function and more because of an unusual point of view. They have difficulties in doing things the standard way, so even if they are not inherently more creative than others, they are often forced to come up with something new.

People with dyscalculia notice things that others usually miss. For example, they can see the numbers less as means to measure things and more as interesting shapes and sounds. They often struggle with following instructions, so they have to figure out a lot of things on their own. This often leads to a deeper understanding of the activities they take part in and a more practical approach to them.

Practical thinking

Dyscalculic people tend to think in pictures instead of numbers. For example, they have problems describing the number of things, but they can recognize the right portion when they see it. In general, dyscalculic people do much better in exercises that require the manipulation of physical objects than in abstract tasks.

They also have a higher-than-usual need to fully understand the subject if they are to learn it. They might be slow to grasp some things, but when they finally acquire the knowledge, they do it properly and they are aware of the connection between the numbers they memorized and the material reality they represent.

The truth is that people without dyscalculia sometimes focus too much on the numbers and too little on their practical aspects. For example, while cooking, it is good to follow the recipe, but it is even better to have a holistic understanding of the process. The most experienced home cooks will not be able to tell you how many grams of flour they put into the cake, because what they focus on is for the dough to have the right consistency.

A different point of view

People with dyscalculia have a lot of various strengths, that are not always connected with their disability. Specific Learning Disorders do not affect a person’s intelligence, therefore some of the people who have them can be very clever. They can also be exceptional in whatever they love doing. Therefore the most important thing is to ask yourself not about the superpowers of people with dyscalculia in general, but about the strengths of a specific person. Then, you can help them grow and make use of their abilities.

If you want to learn more about supporting dyscalculic people, find out more information on the Calculate project. An online course for parents and teachers will be available soon.

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Clouser, L., Discovering Dyscalculia with Laura Jackson, The LDA Podcast, Learning Disabilities Association of America, from: https://ldaamerica.org/discovering-dyscalculia-with-laura-jackson/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=discovering-dyscalculia-with-laura-jackson

Magenes S, Antonietti A and Cancer A (2021) Creative Thinking and Dyscalculia: Conjectures About a Still Unexplored Link. Front. Psychol. 12:671771. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.671771

Illustration 1 by William Fortunato: https://www.pexels.com/nl-nl/foto/vrouw-koffie-telefoon-laptop-6393342/.

Illustration 2 by Colin Behrens on Pixabay.


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