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Trends Cogn Sci. 2010 Dec;14(12):534-41. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2010.09.007.

Foundational numerical capacities and the origins of dyscalculia.

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  • 1Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, 17 Queen Square, London WC1N 3AR, UK.


One important cause of very low attainment in arithmetic (dyscalculia) seems to be a core deficit in an inherited foundational capacity for numbers. According to one set of hypotheses, arithmetic ability is built on an inherited system responsible for representing approximate numerosity. One account holds that this is supported by a system for representing exactly a small number (less than or equal to four4) of individual objects. In these approaches, the core deficit in dyscalculia lies in either of these systems. An alternative proposal holds that the deficit lies in an inherited system for sets of objects and operations on them (numerosity coding) on which arithmetic is built. I argue that a deficit in numerosity coding, not in the approximate number system or the small number system, is responsible for dyscalculia. Nevertheless, critical tests should involve both longitudinal studies and intervention, and these have yet to be carried out.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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