Preterm babies are more likely to have trouble learning math

"Teachers should be aware of these children’s problems and need to work on ways of math instruction that help preterm children," said Dieter Wolke, the study's co-author.
By Brooks Hays   |   March 21, 2014 at 2:13 PM
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Children struggling with math problems may have come out of the womb a little too soon -- that's the logic of the conclusion arrived at by child psychologists in England and Germany.

Researchers at the University of Warwick and Ruhr-University Bochum found that children born preterm were more likely to demonstrate trouble with mathematical thinking later in childhood.

Psychologists had hypothesized that infants birthed ahead of schedule would be more likely to develop dyscalculia -- a cognitive impairment diagnosed when math problems prove more troublesome than they should, given the child's general intelligence.

Researchers tested the hypothesis by analyzing various intelligence and learning info from 922 children between the ages of seven and nine. And while their hypothesis proved incorrect, the study did show that children born very preterm -- before 32 weeks -- of gestational age have greater chance of mathematic impairment.

“In general, preterm and small-for-gestational-age children often have mathematic problems and, even if they are not diagnosed with dyscalculia," explained co-author Dr. Julia Jaekel, of German's Ruhr-University Bochum.

“Teachers should be aware of these children’s problems and need to work on ways of math instruction that help preterm children deal with the high cognitive workload and integration of information required for mathematic tasks in school”, co-author Dieter Wolke, of Warwick, added.

Previous studies have shown preterm children's IQ scores to fall several points below their peers' averages.

[University of Warwick] [Emory University]

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