Canadian researchers are reporting that children who find it difficult to solve mathematical questions may be suffering from developmental dyscalculia, a syndrome that is similar to the reading disorder dyslexia.
Daniel Ansari, an assistant professor at The University of Western Ontario in London, says that kids with dyscalculia often have difficulty understanding numerical quantity.
Such children find it difficult to connect abstract symbols, such as a number, to the numerical magnitude it represents, he says.
According to him, kids with dyscalculia can't see the connection between five fingers and the number '5', in the same way as children with dyslexia have difficulty connecting sounds with letters.
Ansari says that a recent study he conducted along with his graduate student Ian Holloway, to be published in the forthcoming edition of the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, has revealed that children who are better at connecting numerical symbols and magnitudes are more likely to have higher math scores.
The researcher bemoans that parents and teachers are often unaware that developmental dyscalculia is just as common as developmental dyslexia, and is frequently related to dyslexia.
He stresses the need for increasing public awareness of developmental dyscalculia.
"Research shows that many children have both dyslexia and dyscalculia. We are now exploring further the question of exactly what brain differences exist between those who have just math problems and those who have both math and reading difficulties," says Ansari.
With the help of functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), the researchers have also found that children with developmental dyscalculia show atypical activation patterns in a part of the brain called the parietal cortex.
Ansari says that his team's study attains significance as understanding the causes and brain correlates of dyscalculia may help to design remediation tools to improve the lives of children and adults with the syndrome.
He feels that math skills are hugely important to life success because children with math difficulties may avoid careers that might be a great fit for them.