About a decade ago, a groundbreaking study found that eye pupils detect more than just light. New research by the School of Psychology of the University of Sydney in collaboration with the Universities of Pisa and Florence has revealed that eye pupils can also detect quantity and perceive the number of objects in a person’s field of vision.
Ok, so maybe it’s a slow grower, but since we started this blog, there have been some leaps in research, and overall there is a little higher general awareness of dyscalculia. We thought we would give you a little rundown of the latest research related to dyscalculia over the last years, and perhaps this will help us see what the future may hold for dyscalculics the world over!
Back in 2018, some researchers at the University of Bonn were up to some, quite frankly, mind-boggling stuff. So we are born with the ability to count, and shortly after birth, babies can estimate the number of events and even perform simple calculations. But what exactly happens in the brain? And do we process abstract numbers differently from concrete quantities? To answer these questions, the researchers measured the reaction of individual nerve cells to quantities and demonstrated that certain nerve cells fired in response to very specific quantities. With the possibility of studying the individual nerve cells of the brain and the discovery that counting is done on such a scale, the researchers hope that their results will contribute to a better understanding of dyscalculia.
Written by Natalie Kerslake B.A (Hons), MA Ed SEND KS2 Teaching Assistant
A bit about me
My name is Natalie Kerslake B.A (Hons), MA Ed SEND, and I am a primary school teaching assistant, currently teaching in Year 6, with a particular interest in supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities. In January 2016, I graduated with my MA in Education with a specialism in Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) at the University of Derby.
In my first teaching assistant post, I became motivated to complete my MA Ed research on dyscalculia after supporting a child with this. I did not know anything about dyscalculia at the time, and not much was available to support teachers and children in this area. I wanted to investigate the current situation of supporting children with dyscalculia in one particular primary school and see whether this was the case in another school.
Are you wondering why your child struggles with numbers and finds it challenging to solve seemingly simple tasks?
Dyscalculia is usually perceived as a specific learning difference in mathematics or, more appropriately, arithmetic. In isolated dyscalculia, there are no deficits in reading or writing. Dyscalculia is classified under WHO ICD-10, a classification system for diseases and mental disorders, as:
It is well known that schools tend to put mental arithmetic skills above the visual ones, as something like counting with your fingers is seen as a weakness in one’s calculation abilities. Educators and scientists have been tackling this obsolete cliché with research and scientific reports that seem to prove that visual aids are more than just helpful in the learning process.
Indeed, visual aids, such as the use of fingers, have a key role in children’s understanding of mathematics. This form of visualisation gives the abstract world of numbers a real side and establishes a connection to something tangible. This results in the creation connections from the prefrontal cortex (main memory / data centre) to the visual and motor cortex. Thus, when visual aid is used, thinking becomes outsourced to other brain areas generating a more efficient use the brain’s capacity.
However, these findings do not mean that you child will forever use their fingers to count. Over time a mental image of the fingers will become connected to the mental processes of counting, making the physical counting unnecessary. This is proven by numerous studies with primary school children that measured increased activity in the visual cortex while children were solving complex math tasks, even when they did not use their hands.
This week we have searched high and low for the five best videos on dyscalculia and here they are!
1. My world without numbers – Line Rothmann
At number one we have the fantastic Tedx Talk from Line Rothmann. She has dyscalculia and tells us of what is like and what quirky systems she developed to get on in a world that is largely based on numbers.
We are very pleased to feature a guest post from PD Dr Karin Kucian, associate professor at the Centre for MR Research of the University Children’s Hospital of Zurich. In her article for the Dyscalculia Blog, Dr Kucian explores changes in brain function and brain anatomy and how these relate to developmental dyscalculia.
Evidence is growing that Developmental Dyscalculia (DD) is associated with various alterations in brain function and brain structure. Recent work in the field of DD has used brain-imaging techniques to study the brains of people performing a number of tasks. These techniques have allowed researchers to generate high-resolution images of participants’ brains, making it possible to observe brain activation patterns during number processing.
This week the Dyscalculia Blog interviewed Natalie Kerslake, a teaching assistant who conducted her master’s degree research around dyscalculia. Natalie shared her thoughts on the importance of increasing school resources for dyscalculics and their teachers.
Please introduce yourself to the blog and tell us what motivated you to focus on dyscalculia.
My name is Natalie Kerslake B.A (Hons), MA Ed and I am a primary school teaching assistant, with a particular interest in supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities.
I became motivated to complete my MA Ed research on dyscalculia after supporting a child with this in my first teaching assistant post. I did not know anything about dyscalculia myself at the time and not much was available to support teachers and children in this area. I wanted to investigate the current situation as to supporting children with dyscalculia in one particular primary school, and see whether this was the case in another school.
At first glance, the Numberphile website seems both charming and a tad overwhelming. The site is dedicated to numbers and explanations of math problems and math research by means of short videos. The videos are linked to via illustrations which are engaging but don’t give a casual visitor many clues as to where they are navigating. It is great for exploring though: click around and see which page you land on and then watch the video to learn something new about math.
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