Math researchers discovered new evidence about math learning disabilities.

Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health have discovered that the innate ability to estimate quantities is impaired in children who have a math learning disability.

The link between difficulty estimating quantities and math difficulties was seen only in children who had a math learning disability, and not in those who did poorly in math but were not considered to be learning disabled.

“The findings suggest that students may struggle with math for very different reasons,” said Kathy Mann Koepke, Ph.D., director of the Mathematics and Science Cognition and Learning program at the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), which funded the study. “Research to identify these reasons may lead to new ways of identifying those at risk, and developing the means to help them.”

Math learning disability is also referred to as dyscalculia.

The study was published in Child Development and was conducted by Michele Mazzocco, Ph.D., at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and her colleagues, Lisa Feigenson, Ph.D., and Justin Halberda, Ph.D., also at Johns Hopkins.

In earlier research, Feigenson and Halberda have shown that the innate ability to estimate and compare quantities is present in infancy and improves with age.