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Poor 'gut sense' of numbers contributes to persistent math difficulties
Date:6/16/2011

A new study published today in the journal Child Development (e-publication ahead of print) finds that having a poor "gut sense" of numbers can lead to a mathematical learning disability and difficulty in achieving basic math proficiency. This inaccurate number sense is just one cause of math learning disabilities, according to the research led by Dr. Michele Mazzocco of the Kennedy Krieger Institute.

Approximately 6 to 14 percent of school-age children have persistent difficulty with mathematics, despite adequate learning opportunities and age-appropriate achievement in other school subjects. These learning difficulties can have lifelong consequences when it comes to job success and financial decision-making. Heightened interest in the nature and origins of these learning difficulties has led to studies to define mathematical learning disability (MLD), identify its underlying core deficits, and differentiate children with MLD from their mathematically successful counterparts.

The new Kennedy Krieger study showed that children with a confirmed math learning disability have a markedly inaccurate number sense compared to their peers. But Dr. Mazzocco said students without a MLD who were below average in achievement performed on the number sense tasks as well as those considered average. For them, number sense doesn't seem to be the trouble.

"Some children have a remarkably imprecise intuitive sense of numbers, and we believe these children have math learning disability, at least in part, due to deficits in this intuitive type of number sense," said Dr. Mazzocco, Director of the Math Skills Development Project at Kennedy Krieger. "But other students who underperform in math do so despite having an intact number sense. This demonstrates the complexity of determining precisely what influences or interferes with a child's mathematical learning. Difficulty learning math may result from a weak number sense but it may also result from
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Contact: Colleen Butz
cbutz@spectrumscience.com
202-955-6222
Kennedy Krieger Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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