Impairment of Non-Symbolic Number Processing in Children With Mathematical Learning Disability

Anne Lafay, Marie-Catherine St-Pierre, Joël Macoir


The functional origin of Mathematical Learning Disability (MLD), an impairment affecting mathematics learning, remains controversial. We aimed to study the number sense deficit hypothesis in children with MLD. We explored the processing of non-symbolic numbers in Quebec French-speaking 8‒9-year-old children with three non-symbolic tasks (number comparison, number matching and dot set selection task). Results showed that children with MLD were as successful as typically developing children in a comparison task, but less successful in a matching task. Their performance in numerical re-production was also similar to that of typically developing children for large (10-99) numerosities, while they were less successful in transcoding small (1-4) and medium (5-9) numerosities. Children with MLD also presented with general cognitive and reading difficulties. Results suggest a deficit in processing small and medium numerosities in children with MLD that could be largely attributed to their poorer cognitive skills.


mathematical learning disability; dyscalculia; number sense; numerosity; non-symbolic numerals

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