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J Learn Disabil. 2012 Jul-Aug;45(4):341-50. doi: 10.1177/0022219411400746. Epub 2011 Mar 28.

Selective spatial working memory impairment in a group of children with mathematics learning disabilities and poor problem-solving skills.

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Faculty of Psychology, University of Trieste, Italy.


This study examines visual and spatial working memory skills in 35 third to fifth graders with both mathematics learning disabilities (MLD) and poor problem-solving skills and 35 of their peers with typical development (TD) on tasks involving both low and high attentional control. Results revealed that children with MLD, relative to TD children, failed spatial working memory tasks that had either low or high attentional demands but did not fail the visual tasks. In addition, children with MLD made more intrusion errors in the spatial working memory tasks requiring high attentional control than did their TD peers. Finally, as a post hoc analysis the sample of MLD was divided in two: children with severe MLD and children with low mathematical achievement. Results showed that only children with severe MLD failed in spatial working memory (WM) tasks if compared with children with low mathematical achievement and TD. The findings are discussed on the basis of their theoretical and clinical implications, in particular considering that children with MLD can benefit from spatial WM processes to solve arithmetic word problems, which involves the ability to both maintain and manipulate relevant information.

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