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Overcoming 'Interruptions' in Math Learning

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Overcoming 'Interruptions' in Math Learning

For most children learning mathematics is, at best, a challenge. For those students struggling with learning disabilities, math learning can seem impossibile. It need not be so, says MU psychology professor and mathematics education expert David Geary. By identifying "interruptions in learning" -- and the disabilities that trigger them -- psychology researchers may well be able to successfully diagnose and treat most forms of childhood innumeracy.

Geary recently received the prestigious MERIT (Method to Extend Research In Time) award from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, an agency of the National Institutes of Health. The award, given to researchers who have demonstrated superior performance and production, will allow Geary an opportunity to extend his study for up to 10 years with a guarantee of funding support. "Never before have we had the resources to do this type of longitudinal study to focus solely on mathematical learning and disabilities," he says.

Geary and his team will study 300 children from kindergarten through middle school. Some of the research involves standard achievement and ability tests, as well as more difficult cognitive experimental tests. For example, Geary will examine how a child solves a math problem -- be it simple or complex -- and will test memory, attention control and amount of information retained. The goal, he says, is to identify children who possess a strong ability to learn but have low achievement levels, and then to discover why this happens.

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