Learning mathematics is a complex process that forms a key element in modern education.
Significant mathematics learning difficulties emerge in 5 to 10 per cent of all elementary and secondary education students.
Struggling to acquire skills in mathematics is more than a single deficit and appears to involve multiple cognitive skills.
Giannis Karagiannakis and colleagures recently summarized what is known about mathematics learning disorders and proposed four subtypes. I will summarize these subtypes based upon his manuscript:
Core number subtype: This subtype represents a key early skill for learning mathematics. It denotes the ability to accurately generate an internal representation of quantity and understand different representations of quantity, i.e. analog-verbal-Arabic. It also includes difficulty understanding basic symbols of arithmetic operation symbols.
Memory subtype: This subtype reflects a deficit in working memory and semantic memory. Children and adults with this type of mathematical learning disorder have problems retrieving numerical facts, performing mental calculations. Additionally, because of memory deficits, this subtype struggles with keeping track of steps in a multistage arithmetic problem.
Reasoning subtype: This proposed subtype shows deficits in executive functions such as planning and decision-making. Executive function skills come in to play with mathematical problems include complex algorithms, if-then conditional probability and decision selection.
Visual-Spatial subtype: In this subtype there is a deficit in visuospatial skills resulting in problems with the spatial representation of numbers. Learners with deficits in this subtype will struggle with tasks such as placing numbers on a number line, geometric representations and rotations and the interpretation of numerical information presented in graphs or tables.
The authors note these types of cognitive skills utilize both the left and right brain hemispheres. This suggests the potential for specific genetic and environmental risks for the specifity sub-types of mathematics learning disorders.
The authors also note, that students with mathematics learning problems show receive neuropsychological testing for each of the four outlined sub-types.
Such testing might more accurately determine whether students a single type of disorder or a more complex disorder involving multiple sub-types.
This information might help direct individualized teaching strategies to correct or limit mathematical cognitive deficits.
Readings with more interest in this topic can access the free full-text manuscript by clicking on the PMID link below.
The mathematical figure in this post is from a Wikipedia Commons file uploaded by OgreBot.
Readers can follow the author on Twitter at WRY999.
Karagiannakis G, Baccaglini-Frank A, & Papadatos Y (2014). Mathematical learning difficulties subtypes classification. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 8 PMID: 24574997.
See the original article: