Some people are born with a clear deficiency when it comes to mathematics, but few know that poor arithmetic can actually be a learning disorder.

Being clinically bad at maths is called ‘dyscalculia’.

Dyscalculia is sometimes compared to dyslexia, but relates to addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, rather than reading.

An arithmetic deficit can have a drastic effect on scholastic achievement and on the psychological development of the children affected, according to German researchers who have plotted the condition in order to develop a model to help sufferers.

Their studies showed that in total, about 5 per cent of seven-to-ten-year-olds manifest the condition.

Depending on which arithmetical operation is tested, the prevalence of the disorder varies between 3 and 6%.

Dyscalculia can be linked to other learning difficulties, but often occurs in students who are perfectly capable in other subjects.

While it is easy to joke that poor maths skills in adults are supplemented by the prevalence of calculators, dyscalculia can have dangerous effects in children’s formative years.

Researchers say it can make kids reluctant to go to school, because they are afraid of being perceived as failures and embarrassing themselves in front of their classmates.

They resort to avoidance strategies and develop a negative self-image, and in the end their performance also suffers in subjects at which they are perfectly capable.

A lack of mathematical skills can preclude a student from going on to the type of later schooling, for which their level of intelligence would otherwise qualify them, and impedes their chances of higher education.

Researcher say that dyscalculia is often overlooked in classroom routines, and there are almost no provision for for adapting the learning environment to help.

“This is not an appropriate response to a disorder that has a biological basis,” Professor Gerd Schulte-Körne says.

Details of the recent study are accessible here.