Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Poor 'gut sense' of numbers contributes to persistent math difficulties

17.06.2011
Study reveals math learning disabilities are caused by multiple factors, including poor intuition in gauging numerical quantities

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 a wide range of other factors such as spatial reasoning or working memory. While we should not assume that all children who struggle with mathematics have a poor number sense, we should consider the possibility."

To gauge their sense of numbers, Dr. Mazzocco and colleagues tested 71 children who were previously enrolled in a 10-year longitudinal study of math achievement. The students, all in the ninth grade, completed two basic number sense tasks. In the number naming task, they were shown arrays of dots and asked to judge how many dots were present, without allowing enough time to actually count them. In the number discrimination task, the children were shown arrays of blue dots and yellow dots and asked to determine whether the blue or yellow array had more dots, again, without time to count them.

The researchers then compared the performance of four groups of students, who over the 10-year study, consistently showed having either a MLD, below average, average or above average math achievement.

Students with MLD performed significantly worse than their peers on both of the number tasks. The study findings suggest that an innate ability to approximate numbers, an intact ability present in human infants and many other species, contributes to more sophisticated math abilities later in life, while a less accurate ability underlies MLD. Additionally, the findings reveal that a poor number sense is not the only potential source of math difficulties, reinforcing that a 'one size fits all' educational approach may not be the best for helping children who struggle with math.

"A key message for parents and teachers is that children vary in the precision of their intuitive sense of numbers. We might take for granted that every child perceives numbers with roughly comparable precision, but this assumption would be false. Some students may need more practice, or different kinds of practice, to develop this number sense," Dr. Mazzocco said. "At the same time, if a child is struggling with mathematics at school, we should not assume that the child's difficulty is tied to a poor number sense; this is just one possibility."

The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Co-investigators on the study were Lisa Feigenson and Justin Halberda of Johns Hopkins University.

About the Kennedy Krieger Institute

Internationally recognized for improving the lives of children and adolescents with disorders and injuries of the brain and spinal cord, the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, MD serves more than 16,000 individuals each year through inpatient and outpatient clinics, home and community services and school-based programs. Kennedy Krieger provides a wide range of services for children with developmental concerns mild to severe, and is home to a team of investigators who are contributing to the understanding of how disorders develop while pioneering new interventions and earlier diagnosis. For more information on Kennedy Krieger Institute, visit www.kennedykrieger.org.

Colleen Butz | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.kennedykrieger.org

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Drone vs. truck deliveries: Which create less carbon pollution?
31.05.2017 | University of Washington

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

Im Focus: Optoelectronic Inline Measurement – Accurate to the Nanometer

Germany counts high-precision manufacturing processes among its advantages as a location. It’s not just the aerospace and automotive industries that require almost waste-free, high-precision manufacturing to provide an efficient way of testing the shape and orientation tolerances of products. Since current inline measurement technology not yet provides the required accuracy, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is collaborating with four renowned industry partners in the INSPIRE project to develop inline sensors with a new accuracy class. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the project is scheduled to run until the end of 2019.

New Manufacturing Technologies for New Products

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation

22.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Plant inspiration could lead to flexible electronics

22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences

A rhodium-based catalyst for making organosilicon using less precious metal

22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>