Acalculia: The Relationship Between Numerical Calculation and Language
by Jaecel Shah


What is acalculia?

The inability to do simple mathematics problems.

This includes the simplest of mathematical operations:

  • quantity comparisons
  • addition
  • subtraction
  • multiplication
  • division

Acalculia was formally named in 1920 by Henschen (Cohen et al., 1999).  Acalculia is derived from the Greek, "a" meaning "not" and the Latin "calculare" meaning "to count" (Psychology Wiki).  Henschen hypothesized that acalculia was due to impairments in multiple areas of the brain.  His initial hypothesis was close as there are many numerical processing areas.

The level of acalculia differs in every diagnosed individual and the reasoning behind the difference is still not completely understood. A great example is a case described by Lampl et al. in 1993, where they described a patient that was clearly acalculic and was unable to perform all the basic mathematical functions except subtraction.  Therefore, not every mathematical function has to be dysfunctional in order for the individual to have acalculia.


Causes for Acalculia - Neurological in Nature (

  • Brain Tumor
  • Stroke
  • Encephalitis
  • Infection
  • Brain Trauma


Different Types of Acalculia (Ardila, 2008)


Is acalculia the same as dyscalculia?

It is important to note that acalculia is not the same thing is dyscalculia.  Dyscalculia is a developmental disorder that generally occurs early in life.  Acalculia can occur at anytime in a lifetime and arises due to some sort of neurological trauma.  Sometimes the two can be confused for one another given that a some of the calculation deficits seen are common to both acalculia and dyscalculia


How exactly is acalculia related to language?