A new paper by University of Minnesota and British researchers says that students who struggle to learn mathematics may have a neurocognitive disorder that inhibits the acquisition of basic numerical and arithmetic concepts.
Called developmental dyscalculia, the disorder affects roughly the same number of people as dyslexia but has received much less attention (and research funding). The paper by University of Minnesota Educational Psychology assistant professor Sashank Varma and his British colleagues that shines a light on the causes of and interventions for dyscalculia will be published Thursday, May 27 in the journal Science
The paper, "Dyscalculia, From Brain to Education," documents how scientists across the world have used magnetic resonance imaging to map the neural network that supports arithmetic. Through this process, they have discovered abnormalities in this network among learners with dyscalculia.
These findings have the potential to lead to evidence-based interventions for dyscalculia, Varma says. "Knowledge about what parts of the brain we use while learning mathematics is spurring the design of new computer learning environments that can strengthen simple number and arithmetic concepts," he explains. The paper envisions future research where neuroscientists, psychologists and educational researchers collaborate to offer a productive way forward on the important question of why some children struggle with learning mathematics.