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
. 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
Co-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
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
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
addition to a standardized mathematics test.
The results of the study ruled out a direct
correlation between preterm
and dyscalculia. However, the researchers showed that being
small-for-gestational-age is a sure indicator of whether a child could have
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
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
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