School mathematics and dyslexia: aspects of the interrelationship

  • Lynn S. Joffe

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This investigation sought to explore the nature and extent of school mathematical difficulties among the dyslexic population. Anecdotal reports have suggested that many dyslexics may have difficulties in arithmetic, but few systematic studies have previously been undertaken. The literature pertaining to dyslexia and school mathematics respectively is reviewed. Clues are sought in studies of dyscalculia. These seem inadequate in accounting for dyslexics' reported mathematical difficulties. Similarities between aspects of language and mathematics are examined for underlying commonalities that may partially account for concomitant problems in mathematics, in individuals with a written language dysfunction. The performance of children taught using different mathematics work-schemes is assessed to ascertain if these are associated with differential levels of achievement that may be reflected in the dyslexic population few are found. Findings from studies designed to assess the relationship between written language failure and achievement in mathematics are reported. Study 1 reveals large correlational differences between subtest scores (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Wechsler, 1976) and three mathematics tests, for young dyslexics and children without literacy difficulties. However, few differences are found between levels of attainment, at this age (6 ½ - 9 years). Further studies indicate that, for dyslexics, achievement in school mathematics, may be independent of measured intelligence, as is the case with their literacy skills. Studies 3 and 4 reveal that dyslexics' performances on a range of school mathematical topics gets relatively worse compared with that of Controls (age range 8 - 17 years), as they get older. Extensive item analyses reveal many errors relating strongly to known deficits in the dyslexics' learning style - poor short-term memory, sequencing skills and verbal labelling strategies. Subgroups of dyslexics are identified on the basis of mathematical performance. Tentative explanations, involving alternative neuropsychological approaches, are offered for the measured differences in attainment between these groups.
Date of AwardMay 1981
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMichael Thomson (Supervisor)


  • school mathematics
  • dyslexia
  • interrelationship
  • error analysis

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