Difficulty estimating quantity linked to math learning disability
Researchers have discovered that in children who have a math learning disability the ability to estimate quantities that usually exists from birth is impaired.
Akinso: Researchers have discovered that the ability to estimate quantities is impaired in children who have a math learning disability.
Koepke: The medical term for math learning disability is dyscalculia.
Akinso: Dr. Kathy Mann Koepke is a staff scientist at the National Institutes of Health.
Koepke: Usually we use this term to refer to a broad range of mathematical difficulties in learning and performance, but these difficulties can not be attributed to inadequate or poor instruction. So there is something besides poor schooling.
Akinso: In a recent study researchers compared children's ability to estimate quantity with their level of mathematics achievement. The study was conducted by Dr. Michèle Mazzocco and colleagues at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Koepke: Dr. Mazzocco and her colleagues used the computer screen to quickly, very briefly for 200 milliseconds, flash colored dots of different sizes and colors, and groupings to measure the participant's Weber fractions or their ability to number discriminate.
Akinso: In the second series, 9 to 15 dots of one color appeared, and the students were asked to say how many dots they saw. The researchers gave 71 ninth graders these two series of tests designed to measure their capability. Dr. Koepke explains that the children were broken up into four groups based on their 9th grade achievement scores.
Koepke: There was the math learning disabled group, which are those children whose math achievement score was at the 10th percentile or less meaning they where at the bottom of achievement. Low math achieving group, they scored between the 11th and 25th percentile on the math achievement score. A typical mathematics achievement grouping scoring between the 25th and 95th percentiles, and then there was the fourth group which is of course the smallest group along side the math disabled group of high achievement or those children who had achievement scores at the 95th percentile or better.
Akinso: Dr. Koepke says the findings suggest that students may struggle with math for very different reasons.
Koepke: Children with math learning disability had significantly higher Weber scores or number discrimination and number identification or number of mapping scores.
Akinso: According to Dr. Koepke, these findings suggest that the problems with the approximate number system underlie math difficulties for children with dyscalculia compared to all the other groups. The researchers point out that approximately 10 percent of school-age children have persistent and significant difficulties with math and many more fail to achieve basic levels of mathematics achievement. They add that research to identify the factors underlying math difficulties may lead to new ways of identifying those at risk, and developing the means to help them. For more information, visit www.nichd.nih.gov. This is Wally Akinso at the NIH, Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Wally Akinso
Sound Bite: Dr. Kathy Mann Koepke
Topic: Children, Math, Dyscalculia
Additional Info: Difficulty estimating quantity linked to math learning disability