Struggle with Maths? New Study Suggests You May Have 'Dyscalculia'
Last Updated on Sunday, 29 May 2011 12:44
Students who struggle to learn mathematics may have a neurocognitive disorder that inhibits the acquisition of basic numerical and arithmetic concepts, according to a new paper by University of Minnesota and British researchers.
Called developmental dyscalculia, the disorder affects roughly the same number of people as dyslexia but has received much less attention (and research funding).
The paper by University of Minnesota Educational Psychology assistant professor Sashank Varma and his British colleagues will be published Thursday, May 27 in the journal Science1.
The paper, "Dyscalculia, From Brain to Education," documents how scientists across the world have used MR imaging to map the neural network that supports arithmetic. Through this process, they have discovered abnormalities in this network among learners with dyscalculia.
It is hoped that the findings will be used to develop interventions for dyscalculia, Varma says. "Knowledge about what parts of the brain we use while learning mathematics is spurring the design of new computer learning environments that can strengthen simple number and arithmetic concepts," he explains.
The paper envisions future research where neuroscientists, psychologists and educational researchers work together to tackle the important question of why some children struggle maths.
Dyscalculia may affect up to 6% of the population and researchers believe that specialized teaching for individuals with dyscalculia should be made widely available in mainstream education.
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In very simple terms dyscalculia is analogous to dyslexia - which is dysfunction in the reception, comprehension, or production of linguistic information,
Dyscalculia is an individual's difficulty in conceptualizing numbers, number relationships, outcomes of numerical operations and estimation - what to expect as an outcome of an operation.
Dyscalculia can be quantitative, which is a difficulty in counting and calculating; or qualitative, which is a difficulty in the conceptualizing of mathematics processes and spatial sense; or mixed, which is the inability to integrate quantity and space.
Dyscalculia occurs in people across the whole IQ range. The British Dyslexia Association suggest it affects between 3 to 6% of the population.2
More On This Study
- Is dyscalculia as serious as dyslexia? BBC Audio Debate: Professor Brian Butterworth from University College London and Oxford University mathematics professor Marcus Du Sautoy debate if dyscalculia is a serious disorder.
- The Independent: Apart from the wider impact on society and the economy, the study shows dyscalculia and low numeracy imparts huge costs on individuals, more so than the impact of low literacy
- Brian Butterworth, Sashank Varma and Diana Laurillard. Dyscalculia: From Brain to Education. Science, 27 May 2011: Vol. 332 no. 6033 pp. 1049-1053 DOI: 10.1126/science.1201536
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