Math achievement, numerical processing, and executive functions in girls with Turner syndrome: Do girls with Turner syndrome have math learning disability?

Michèle M.M. Mazzocco, Laurie B. Hanich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations

Abstract

Turner syndrome is a common genetic disorder associated with select deficits in executive functions, working memory and mathematics. In Study 1, we examined growth trajectories of skills in these areas, from grades 1 to 6, among girls with or without Turner syndrome. Rates of growth and performance levels at 6th grade, on an untimed math achievement test, did not suggest that girls with Turner syndrome have math learning difficulty (MLD). However, analyses did reveal lower efficiency on timed executive function tasks, among girls with Turner syndrome, who traded accuracy for speed under mild to moderate working memory demands. In Study 2 we compared numerical processing skills of 6th graders who had either Turner syndrome, MLD, low math achievement, or typical achievement in math. A numerical decomposition task revealed numerical processing deficits for the Turner syndrome and MLD groups, relative to typically achieving students. The relative difficulties in how numerical processing vs. working memory demands affected performance accuracy differed among groups, with the former demands leading to more performance difficulties in the Turner syndrome group. Our findings support the notion that girls with Turner syndrome recruit different strategies than their peers during allegedly basic numerical processing, that numerical processing deficits vs. executive function deficits underlie their difficulties with mathematics, and that math difficulties among these girls may not be apparent on untimed tests. These finding have implications for a possible manifestation of MLD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-81
Number of pages12
JournalLearning and Individual Differences
Volume20
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2010
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by NICHD grant R01 034061-01 to 09 , awarded to Dr. Mazzocco. We thank the children who participated in this research, the Baltimore County Public School District, and research assistants at the Math Skills Development Project (MSDP) who were directly involved with this research (listed alphabetically) Kathleen Devlin, Martha Early, Anne Henry, Sarah McKenney, and Jennifer Siegler. The authors also acknowledge former postdoctoral fellow Melissa M. Murphy. Special thanks go to Gwen Friday Myers, who from 1997 to 2004 served as an outstanding Research Coordinator of the Math Skills Development Project. Finally, we would like to acknowledge the comments of three blind reviewers who offered insightful and thoughtful suggestions based on an earlier draft of this paper.

Keywords

  • Dyscalculia
  • Mathematical learning disabilities
  • Numerical processing
  • Turner syndrome
  • Working memory

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