Thursday, November 25, 2010

Research byte: Foundational numerical capacities and math disabilities (dyscalculia)

Interesting article in a special issue of Trends in Cognitive Science--Space, Time and Number

Foundational numerical capacities and the origins of dyscalculia, by Brian Butterworth. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, December 2010, Vol. 14, No. 12


One important cause of very low attainment in arithmetic (dyscalculia) seems to be a core deficit in an inherited foundational capacity for numbers. According to one set of hypotheses, arithmetic ability is built on an inherited system responsible for representing approximate numer-osity. One account holds that this is supported by a system for representing exactly a small number (less than or equal to four4) of individual objects. In these approaches, the core deficit in dyscalculia lies in either of these systems. An alternative proposal holds that the deficit lies in an inherited system for sets of objects and operations on them (numerosity coding) on which arith-metic is built. I argue that a deficit in numerosity coding, not in the approximate number system or the small number system, is responsible for dyscalculia. Neverthe-less, critical tests should involve both longitudinal studies and intervention, and these have yet to be carried out.

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