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When the numbers don’t add up – Living with dyscalculia

October 20, 2020

A little-known condition called dyscalculia could be the reason so many people struggle with maths.

We all know what it’s like to be standing at the till in a shop counting out money to pay for something. For most people the mental arithmetic isn’t a problem. They can add up what to pay and they will know if they receive the correct change.

But for people like Mark Daly, a member of NALA’s Student Sub-Committee, situations like that can be very fraught and stressful. That’s because Mark has dyscalculia, a learning condition which makes understanding numbers and making calculations very difficult.

“I really struggle with counting out money in a shop. I’ll keep making a mistake and have to start over. I was diagnosed with dyscalculia 30 years ago when I was on holidays in the United States. My mother found it very frustrating and upsetting when I couldn’t understand basic maths concepts. She was a financial secretary so she was very good at maths herself,” Mark says.

 “It has had an enormous effect on my life. When I was in school I wasn’t able to do exercises on the blackboard and I used to get detention because I couldn’t do some of my homework,” he says.

A few years ago Mark decided to tackle dyscalculia and this meant going back to education to get some help with maths. He is now a student at an adult learning centre in Loughlinstown and the experience has inspired him to become an advocate for people with dyscalculia.

“When I was younger I wanted to be an actor or a writer. I never thought that I’d end up being an advocate for people with learning difficulties. But it’s very important to me that people who struggle with maths are still able to find their place in society.”

Dyscalculia (pronounced Dis-kal-cool-e-a) is a learning condition which makes understanding numbers and making calculations very difficult.

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