Distinguishing ‘Trouble with Math’ From a Math Disability

By Catherine Gewertz — June 21, 2011 1 min read

Anyone who struggles with math—or teaches someone who does—will be intrigued by new research that tries to answer the question: how can you tell when students are having garden-variety troubles with math and when they have a significant math-learning disability?

Judging by the traffic on our website, this topic is of keen interest. Take a look at the story about the study by my colleague Sarah Sparks.

Researchers tracked the math performance of a group of Baltimore students from kindergarten through 9th grade. They found that the lowest-performing students—those who had a real disability, dyscalculia—were the ones who struggled most to grasp a number’s magnitude, as shown in exercises like seeing a group of books, or dots on a screen, and estimating how many are there, or being able to figure out that one group has more than another group, Sarah reports.

Researchers hope the study will help educators diagnose and address students’ math difficulties, something they believe hasn’t gotten the attention that students’ reading troubles receives.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.