Identification and investigation of dyscalculia.

  • Joyce E. Whittington

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Dyscalculia is defined as a structural disorder of mathematical abilities, leading to underachievement in Mathematics, and having its origin in a genetic or congenital disorder of those parts of the brain that are the direct anatomico-physiological substrate of mathematical abilities, without an obvious simultaneous disorder of general mental functions. A search of the literature yielded enough evidence for its existence to justify an investigation, especially bearing in mind the educational implications of the existence of dyscalculic children. The investigation was conducted using two complementary procedures: computer-aided analysis of data from a national sample of over 14,000 children, and case studies of individual children in local schools, using a battery of psychological tests. Each procedure started with the identification of a group of children who were underachieving in Mathematics relative to their peers. Mathematical underachievement was associated in the case study group with three significant areas of functioning: certain anomalous laterality preferences, poor short-term memory, and large Verbal- Nonverbal ability differences. The first of these areas was also indicated in the analysis of the national sample, where it occurred in conjection with poor coordination and abnormal pregnancy or birth data. Studies of each of the three 'significant areas' revealed strong links with neurological disorders described in the literature. There were indications that each area was also linked with underachievement in Mathematics. It was found that the psychological tests which identified the three 'significant areas' of functioning were of use in identifying a mathematical underachiever in a 'normal' class. Although this investigation cannot claim to be conclusive, it adds to the construct validity of the concept of dyscalculia and points to aspects of mathematical underachievement which need further investigation.
Date of Award1985
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath

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