The Neuropsychology of Mathematics Disorders
As we have noted in Chapter 5, much more is known about reading disorders (RDs) than about mathematics disorders (MDs) and other types of learning disorders (LDs). Because there is so much emphasis on reading in teacher-training programs, teachers find themselves struggling with mathematics computation and word problem instruction, especially when children have difficulty in these areas. Many children with math problems also have problems in reading and written language, and in these cases there may be similar neuropsychological reasons for their difficulties. Some children with MDs have significant psychosocial concerns, while others seem to be well adjusted. The reasons for their differential presentation can be environmental, biological, or (most likely) some combination of both. Some children are quite anxious when it comes to math skills; others take great pleasure in learning math concepts and computation skills. Recognizing how children with MDs solve math problems, and what types of errors they commit, can provide us with an understanding of how to remediate or compensate for their deficient performance. As we have stressed throughout this book, each child's MD is unique in some way, and a thorough investigation may reveal different underlying causes for his or her difficulties, as can be seen in Case Study 6.1.
To understand the underlying neurospsychological processes required for math competency, it is important to recognize how math skills develop. What do children need in order to learn math skills? In his discussion of concrete operations, Piaget (1965) taught us about several important underlying concepts critical for math competency, including one-to-one correspondence, classification, seriation, and conservation. When children are learning about quantity and operations (es