Why Is Math So Hard for Some Children? Math Learning Difficulties and Disabilities

Presenter: Michèle Mazzocco

9:30 am - 10:15 am

Special Needs Program

Why is mathematical thinking intuitive for some children, and yet so challenging for others? Nearly every elementary school teacher has encountered students that sail through the math curriculum and others who struggle with it, yet the reasons for these students’ experiences are not always apparent. This 90-minute regular conference session will use lecture, video, and brief activities to introduce participants to the research on social, cognitive, and pedagogical influences on mathematics achievement, and to summarize the characteristics of children with mathematics learning disabilities (MLD) and other mathematics difficulties. The session will include a discussion of the implications of MLD research for informal assessments of children’s mathematics learning difficulties.

At the conclusion of the session, participants will be able to:

  • describe social influences on children’s mathematics learning and achievement, and how to address some of these influences in the classroom.
  • describe cognitive influences on children’s mathematics learning and achievement, and how to consider these influences in the classroom.
  • compare and contrast characteristics of children with math learning disabilities (including dyscalculia) relative to children with other math difficulties.
  • understand the advantage of including flexible interviews and related tools in informal assessments of children’s mathematical knowledge.
  • explain why it is challenging to generalize characteristics of mathematics learning difficulties across students, and why effective strategies to support children’s mathematics learning difficulties need to be individualized.

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