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Cognition. 2007 Mar;102(3):361-95. Epub 2006 Feb 20.

Basic numerical skills in children with mathematics learning disabilities: a comparison of symbolic vs non-symbolic number magnitude processing.

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  • 1Unité Cognition et Développement (CODE), Catholic University of Louvain, 10 place C. Mercier, 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.


Forty-five children with mathematics learning disabilities, with and without comorbid reading disabilities, were compared to 45 normally achieving peers in tasks assessing basic numerical skills. Children with mathematics disabilities were only impaired when comparing Arabic digits (i.e., symbolic number magnitude) but not when comparing collections (i.e., non-symbolic number magnitude). Moreover, they automatically processed number magnitude when comparing the physical size of Arabic digits in an Stroop paradigm adapted for processing speed differences. Finally, no evidence was found for differential patterns of performance between MD and MD/RD children in these tasks. These findings suggest that children with mathematics learning disabilities have difficulty in accessing number magnitude from symbols rather than in processing numerosity per se.

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