“Dyscalculia” makes it difficult for 5 to 8 percent of children to learn math, researchers estimate. These children are cognitively different from kids who just have trouble with math, a new study concludes. From Education Week:
A new, decade-long longitudinal study by researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, published Friday in the journal Child Development, finds that 9th-graders considered dyscalculic—those who performed in the bottom 10 percent of math ability on multiple tests—had substantially lower ability to grasp and compare basic number quantities than average students or even other struggling math students.
“Formal math requires some effort, and it requires effort to different degrees for different children,” said Michèle M. M. Mazzocco, the director of the Math Skills Development Project at Kennedy Krieger. “Just because someone is having difficulty with math doesn’t necessarily mean they have a math learning disability. This study points to a core marker” of true dyscalculia.
Dyscalculia is about as common as dyslexia, researchers say. Yet there’s 20 times more research on reading problems than on math-learning disabilities.
Students with dyscalculia are significantly worse at estimating than other students, Mazzocco said.
“For [9th grade] children with math learning disability, there is precision at the level we would expect to see in a toddler or preschooler,” she said.
By contrast, there was no significant difference between students who performed in the low 10 to 25 percent of math ability and average-performing students, suggesting a difference in underlying causes of math problems for the lowest-performing students.
Brain-imaging studies of people estimating numbers have found lower brain activation in the parietal lobe for people identified with dyscalculia.