Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Can't "Do" Math? It's Not Your Fault.

Blame your parents and grandparents for bad genetics:
Can't calculate a tip or even balance your checkbook?

Take heart. Maybe you can blame your brain -- specifically, the parietal cortex in the top back part of the head. It also could be a problem that has roots not in a failed arithmetic or "new math" lesson, but even earlier.

Recent findings indicate that how well 3-year-olds estimate quantities predicts their math ability in elementary school. Another study funded by the National Institutes of Health showed that the innate capacity to estimate is impaired in children who have a math learning disability.

The findings are so new that there's no widely accepted way to diagnose what's known as dyscalculia (dis-cal-KOO-lia), nor any set strategies for coping with it -- even though 5 to 8 percent of the population is thought to suffer from math learning disability. Consider it the mathematical partner to dyslexia, which impairs reading ability.
I'm going to need a lot more evidence of this before I believe that 5-8% of the population has a physical issue preventing basic math ability. Gawd, the last thing we need is yet another excuse.


Alf Tupper said...

Did you know that fully half of the working population earns less than the median income? That's outrageous! We should pass a law that everyone should be paid the median income! Oh, wait. The Russians tried that. Never mind...

mrelliott said...

You know, so much of what we understand about our world is because of the confusion and lack of understanding by someone who used their brain to figure it out. We need to stop this subtle message to students that they only need to learn what's easiest or natural for them. Math didn't come easy for me, I should say algebra, but that didn't stop me from working my arse off trying to understand. Yep, here comes another wave of excuses given to students, more money poured into education to deal with "dyscalculia" , and yet we won't see a bit of achievement occur.

What's the definition of insanity???

MagisterGreen said...

So...let's accept this premise for a moment. There is evidence that dyslexia can actually be acquired through being poorly taught to read...could it be possible that this "dyscalculia" might be the result of being poorly taught to reckon?

Nah...if that were true then we wouldn't need to throw more money at the problem. And that's what this is all, ultimately, about. IMHO, of course.

MikeAT said...


Why did you publish this! Beth reads your blog...she'll use this as an excuse now!

Thanks a lot!


maxutils said...

One of my best algebra 2 students ever was dyslexic . . . he got extr time on tests, because he couldn't read the questions. But, I don't think he missed one the entire year.

K5 Learning said...

We seem to be living in a country where Mommy bloggers brag about not making their kids do their math homework, and researchers are going out of their way to find a genetic basis for poor math skills.

Its hard to imagine our international math rankings improving anytime soon.