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More kids number blind than dyslexic

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June 09, 2008 19:13 IST
Last Updated: June 09, 2008 19:14 IST

There are more kids who suffer from number blindness, the disorder that makes it difficult for them to understand maths and numbers, than those who suffer from 'word blindness' or dyslexia as it is known.

The finding is based on a study that involved 1,500 school kids by researchers at University College London [Images].

The study found that while 2.5 and 4.3 per cent of kids suffer from dyslexia, a higher number -- 3 and 6 per cent -- of kids suffer from its mathematical equivalent dyscalculia.

The study was conducted in Cuba by the Cuban Ministries of Health and Education, which commissioned a national survey to assess the extent the disorder using a simple screening test developed by Professor Brian Butterworth, professor of cognitive neuroscience at University College London.

Professor Butterworth told the Cheltenham Science Festival that 'number blindness' was not due to the way a child was taught maths.

'Increasingly, the evidence shows that dyscalculia is just as common as dyslexia and yet it is not recognised nearly as widely by teachers, parents, schools, local authorities or central government,' The Independent quoted Professor Butterworth, as saying.

'Individuals may be unaware they have this condition. If they discover that they do, there are no dyscalculia charities to assist them as there are for dyslexia. The Cubans have recognised this as a real and serious problem for a child's future. It may affect life chances in employment and health. Schoolchildren are made very unhappy by it and teachers often feel they are failing these children because they do not know how to help them,' he said.

Professor Butterworth added that it was important to identify the problem early so that it can be overcome.

'It (dyscalculia) can be extremely debilitating for people who are affected. Maths and calculations are essential in everyday life and low numeracy can be a real handicap in the workplace,' he said.

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