Your child is struggling with some basic Math homework and you're probably blaming it on a granddad or a great-grand mom who passed on the bad-at-Math gene to the kid! It could be that your preterm child is otherwise healthy but, poor in Math skills!
New research shows that preterm children face a greater risk of general cognitive and mathematical difficulties. The objective of the study by researchers at the University of Warwick and Ruhr-University Bochum was to understand the relationship between preterm birth and dyscalculia, a learning disorder in Mathematics.
AdvertisementCo-author of the study Professor Dieter Wolke, a researcher from the University of Warwick sought to explain the difference between dyscalculia and mathematical impairment. "Mathematic impairment is not the same as dyscalculia. A child with both low IQ and low mathematic abilities can have general mathematic impairment without suffering from dyscalculia".
Dyscalculia could mean a wide range of learning disabilities involving mathematics that could last for a lifetime. The learning disability could differ from person to person as there is no single type of math disability. Dyscalculia is diagnosed when kids do badly in Math subject—worse than what is normally expected based on their IQ.
The study published in the Journal of Pediatrics involved a total of 922 children between the ages of seven and nine, some born preterm and some born after full term—ranging from 23 to 41 weeks' gestational age (GA). The children's mathematical and cognitive abilities were measured using the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children in addition to a standardized mathematics test.
The results of the study ruled out a direct correlation between preterm births and dyscalculia. However, the researchers showed that being small-for-gestational-age is a sure indicator of whether a child could have dyscalculia.
The study observed that children born significantly ahead of term, or those born before the 32nd week of pregnancy had a 39.4 % chance of having general mathematical impairment. This is more than twice the risk for children who were born after full term, for whom there was only a 14.9 % chance of mathematical impairment.
In contrast to this, very preterm children's risk of being diagnosed with dyscalculia was 22.6% compared with 13.7% risk for those children in the control group carried to full term.
Dr. Wolke summed up the research findings, "What this study has shown is that preterm children are not at an increased risk of having dyscalculia, but their risk may be increased if they were born small for gestational age."
Co-author of the study Dr Julia Jaekel from the Ruhr-University Bochum, observes that preterm and small for GA children, often have mathematical problems and even though they are not diagnosed with dyscalculia, they would need special help in school so they don't get left behind academically.
Says Prof Wolke,"Teachers should be aware of these children's problems and need to work on ways of math instruction that help preterm children deal with the high cognitive workload and integration of information required for mathematic tasks in school."
It is important for teachers and parents to realize that a child has problems learning arithmetic skills. Right support at school and at home can help children understand their disability, cope with the disability and learn ways and means to improve their math skills. Remedial programs are available for math learning disability (MLD) and many free or low cost digital tools are now available for learning math, especially for those who have a problem learning math skills.
National Center for Learning Disabilities