# Math Disability Study From NIH

October 24, 2011 | Posted by MathMind under Kindergarten Math Games, Preschool Learning Games |

Parents and teachers of elementary school children understand the importance of math skills for continuing education, and for entry into post-secondary institutions or high paying technical fields. Developing the ability to correlate a visual number into a quantity (a math skill referred to as “exact numerical quantities”) is a fundamental skill and building block for additional conceptual development. This concept may seem quite easy for most, yet children experiencing this difficulty in early school years are more likely to develop a disability related to learning math than their fellow classmates, as recently reported in a study by the National Institutes of Health.

From our perspective, one element of this article seemed especially fascinating: that the kindergartners’ abilities could be correlated b the results of one test:

After their analysis, the researchers found that differences between groups in kindergarten scores were correlated with the result of one test in particular. For this test, students were asked to look at a series of rectangles, resembling dominoes, on a computer screen. Each domino was each divided into two or three areas; some areas contained one to nine dots, and others a written numeral. Students were asked to quickly circle any dominos in which the number of dots, together with the numeral, matched the target number and to not circle those that did not match.

The researchers found that the difference in scores from this test was linked to the overall gap in math scores between typically achieving and math learning disabled groups.

“Our findings suggest that children who generally struggle with math — the low achievers — may have a poor sense of numbers, but they can narrow the achievement gap in part because most of them can memorize new math facts and, thus, learn some aspects of math as quickly as their typically achieving peers,” said Dr. Geary.

Dr. Geary added that, in contrast to the low achievers, students with a math learning disability not only have a poor concept of numbers, but also have difficulty memorizing math facts.

Clarifying the factors that contribute to a math learning disability may lead to the development of teaching methods that help students overcome difficulties with number concepts and skills, Dr. Mann-Koepke said. It is important to identify potential difficulties early, when chances for successfully overcoming them are greatest.

Read the full article here

It should not be implied that one test can determine the expected result of a child, or that one test can predict a math disability. As as it points out in the article, it is not the basis for cause and effect. But the study does provide some basis for identifying risk factors of young school children.