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Mathematics development and difficulties: The role of visual–spatial perception and other cognitive skills


  • Prof. Marcia A. Barnes PhD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Special Education, University of Texas, Austin, Texas
    2. Children's Learning Institute, Department of Pediatrics, University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, Texas
    • Correspondence to: Marcia A. Barnes, Department of Special Education, University of Texas at Austin, 1912 Speedway STOP D5300, Austin, TX 78712.


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  • Kimberly P. Raghubar PhD

    1. Department of Psychology, University Houston, Houston, Texas
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  • Conflict of interest: Nothing to declare.
  • Drs. Barnes and Raghubar affirm that they have no affiliations that they consider to be relevant and important with any organization that to their knowledge has a direct interest, particularly a financial interest, in the subject matter discussed. Such affiliations include, but are not limited to, employment by an industrial concern, ownership of stock, membership on a standing advisory council or committee, a seat on the board of directors, or being publicly associated with a company or its products.


Several neurocognitive abilities, including visual–spatial and language-based processes, attention, and fine motor/finger skills, are thought to play important roles in mathematical development and disability. Evidence for relations of specific neurocognitive skills and mathematical development and disability is presented, with a particular emphasis on findings from longitudinal studies. Why these particular neurocognitive skills are related to math is also discussed. We suggest that mathematics learning in children with congenital and acquired neurodevelopmental disorders, including children treated for cancer, is particularly vulnerable to disruption because these disorders often affect one or more of the neurocognitive systems that support math learning and performance. Implications for assessment of and interventions for math difficulties are discussed. The article ends with implications for mathematical functioning in children treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia and brain tumors. Pediatr Blood Cancer 2014; 61:1729–1733. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.