Discerning Developmental Dyscalculia and Neurodevelopmental Models of Numerical Cognition in a Disadvantaged Educational Context.
Santos FH., Ribeiro FS., Dias-Piovezana AL., Primi C., Dowker A., von Aster M.
Developmental Dyscalculia (DD) signifies a failure in representing quantities, which impairs the performance of basic math operations and schooling achievement during childhood. The lack of specificity in assessment measures and respective cut-offs are the most challenging factors to identify children with DD, particularly in disadvantaged educational contexts. This research is focused on a numerical cognition battery for children, designed to diagnose DD through 12 subtests. The aims of the present study were twofold: to examine the prevalence of DD in a country with generally low educational attainment, by comparing z-scores and percentiles, and to test three neurodevelopmental models of numerical cognition based on performance in this battery. Participants were 304 Brazilian school children aged 7-12 years of both sexes (143 girls), assessed by the Zareki-R. Performances on subtests and the total score increase with age without gender differences. The prevalence of DD was 4.6% using the fifth percentile and increased to 7.4% via z-score (in total 22 out of 304 children were diagnosed with DD). We suggest that a minus 1.5 standard deviation in the total score of the Zareki-R is a useful criterion in the clinical or educational context. Nevertheless, a percentile ≤ 5 seems more suitable for research purposes, especially in developing countries because the socioeconomic environment or/and educational background are strong confounder factors to diagnosis. The four-factor structure, based on von Aster and Shalev's model of numerical cognition (Number Sense, Number Comprehension, Number Production and Calculation), was the best model, with significant correlations ranging from 0.89 to 0.97 at the 0.001 level.