Blind Item: Developmental Learning Disorders

Aug 15 2010 Published by under Blind Item

Nearly everyone has heard of developmental dyslexia, a learning disorder characterized by poor reading skills despite otherwise sufficient schooling. But there is another developmental learning disorder, characterized by poor achievement in mathematics, despite otherwise sufficient education. Tomorrow begins a week-long series on this lesser-known learning disorder.

One point to the first individual who identifies the proper name for this developmental (i.e. not acquired) disorder in the comments.

Image source: Scientific American

11 responses so far

  • Snarkyxanf says:


  • skagedal says:

    No, Dyscalculia. 🙂

  • Miles says:

    Are you going to address the issue of whether or not this is a "true" disorder? Similar to the back and forth in the Specific Language Impairment literature.

  • Liz Ditz says:

    Hooray! A whole week. There's just not that much out there for lay readers.

  • Argh, too late to answer dyscalculia. My sister was recently tested for this; I'll have to send her the link when you start the series.

  • Katherine says:

    Argh, thought it was "disnumeracy". As in "dis numeracy stuff is hard" *scratches head*.

  • Jason G. Goldman says:

    One point to Snarkyxanf for the right answer (despite the wrong spelling). And one bonus point to Katherine for making me laugh and choke on my coffee.

  • juanita says:

    Not all innate difficulties with math come under the rubric of dyscalculia. Dyscalculia refers specifically to problems with calculation by addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. It's only one part of "doing math". People with dyscalculia can be perfectly competent to understand and use algebra, geometry, etc., especially if they can use a calculator and a copy of the multiplication tables. On the other hand(s), some people can calculate with ease but have trouble with either the visual-spatial aspects and/or the language aspects of math.

  • juanita says:

    "...developmental (i.e. not acquired) disorder..."

    Developmental disorders can be acquired. The most obvious example would be that caused by exposure to lead.

  • Miles says:

    With regard to it being a "true" disorder, the issue is exactly what cognitive deficits are leading to the particular behavior (bad at math). If we take a look at the language literature, there are many "disorders". SLI(Specific Language Impairment) is a great example. SLI seems to be defined by poor language skills with the absence of any other deficits. Thus any child in the bottom 10% (or so) for language skills may be though of having SLI. The question is whether or not there is some common mechanism that causes this, or if there are many different routes. If there isn't a common mechanism I'm not sure how useful it is from the perspective of a theorist, to label this as a disorder.

    Some of the recent work on Specific Language Impairment suggest that it isn't specific at all. That lumping all the children together has been a bit counter productive to going beyond "bad at language" as a description of these childrens' behavior/knowledge.

    The same goes with number. It's clear that there are some who are very poor at number concepts. What exactly they are bad at is unclear (this isn't my area so it's possible I'm not 100% read up).

  • chemicalbilology says:

    Based on what Juanita said... I might be dyscalculic? I can use algebra, geometry, even calculus (by working hard at it) but can't for the life of me do simple arithmetic in my head or even on paper without going through all the steps very carefully. I used to get SOOOO stressed out by those "Do as many as you can in one minute" tests in school... I could never do very many and got plenty wrong when I was in such a rush. And yet... I went on to major in chemistry, passed Calcs I and II and P-Chem with reasonable performance.

    I'm looking forward to learning more about it...