Academic and Cognitive Characteristics of Persistent Mathematics Difficulty from First Through Fourth Grade


Requests for reprints should be sent to Rose K. Vukovic, 239 Greene St, 2nd Floor, NYU Department of Teaching and Learning, New York, NY 10003. Electronic enquiries should be sent to


This longitudinal study investigated the academic and cognitive characteristics of persistent mathematics difficulty (MD-p) from first to fourth grade. Ninety-nine children were retrospectively categorized into one of three groups: MD-p, transient mathematics difficulty (MD-t), or typically developing. MD-p was defined as persistently low mathematics achievement (≤25th percentile) in at least 2 years from first to fourth grade. The results indicated that the MD-p group was more likely than other groups to have deficits in calculation, practical problem solving, number facts, and reading. In terms of cognitive characteristics, MD-p was specifically characterized by deficits in math concepts and phonological decoding, though there was some evidence for the involvement of working memory, processing speed, and numerical reasoning.