Dyscalculia: From Brain to Education

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Science  27 May 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6033, pp. 1049-1053
DOI: 10.1126/science.1201536

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  1. Fig. 1

    Causal model of possible inter-relations between biological, cognitive, and simple behavioral levels. Here, the only environmental factors we address are educational. If parietal areas, especially the IPS, fail to develop normally, there will be an impairment at the cognitive level in numerosity representation and consequential impairments for other relevant cognitive systems revealed in behavioral abnormalities. The link between the occipitotemporal and parietal cortex is required for mapping number symbols (digits and number words) to numerosity representations. Prefrontal cortex supports learning new facts and procedures. The multiple levels of the theory suggest the instructional interventions on which educational scientists should focus.

  2. Fig. 2

    Structural abnormalities in young dyscalculic brains suggesting the critical role for the IPS. Here, we show areas where the dyscalculic brain is different from that of typically developing controls. Both left and right IPS are implicated, possibly with a greater impairment for left IPS in older learners. (A) There is a small region of reduced gray-matter density in left IPS in adolescent dyscalculics (41). (B) There is right IPS reduced gray-matter density (yellow area) in 9-year-olds (42). (C) There is reduced probability of connections from right fusiform gyrus to other parts of the brain, including the parietal lobes (43).

  3. Fig. 3

    Remediation using learning technology. The images are taken from an example of an interactive, adaptive game designed to help the learner make the link between digits and their meaning. The timed version of the number bonds game elicits many learner actions with informational feedback, and scaffolds abstraction, through stages 1, 5 colors + lengths, evens; 2, 5 colors + lengths, odds; 3, all 10 colors + lengths; 4, digits + colors + lengths; 5, digits + lengths; and 6, digits only. Each rod falls at a pace adapted to the learner’s performance, and the learner has to click the corresponding rod or number to make 10 before it reaches the stack (initially 3 s); if there is a gap, or overlap, or they are too slow, the rods dissolve. When a stack is complete, the game moves to the next stage. The game is available from