Math Disabilities: A Preliminary Meta-analysis of the Published Literature on Cognitive Processes

Applications of Research Methodology

ISBN: 978-0-76231-295-5, eISBN: 978-1-84950-401-0

ISSN: 0735-004X

Publication date: 10 July 2006


This chapter synthesized some of the published literature comparing the cognitive functioning of children with math disabilities (MD) with (1) average achieving children, (2) children with reading disabilities (RD), and (3) children with comorbid disabilities (RD+MD). Twenty-one studies, which yielded 194 effect sizes (ESs), indicated that average achievers outperformed children with MD on measures of verbal problem solving (M=−0.58), naming speed (M=−0.70), verbal (M=−0.70) and visual-spatial working memory (WM, M=−0.63), and long-term memory (LTM, M=−0.72). The results further indicated that children with MD outperformed children with combined disabilities on measures of literacy (M=0.75), visual-spatial problem solving (M=0.51), LTM (M=0.44), short-term memory (STM) for words (M=0.71), and verbal WM (M=0.30). Children with MD could only be clearly differentiated from children with RD on measures of naming speed (−0.23) and visual-spatial WM (−0.30). The magnitude of ESs was persistent across age and severity of math disability. Hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) indicated that the magnitude of ES in overall cognitive functioning between MD and average achievers was due to verbal WM deficits when the effect of all other variables (e.g., age, IQ, reading level, other domain categories) were partialed out. The results are discussed within the context of defining MD by level of severity of WM abilities.


Swanson, L. and Jerman, O. (2006), "Math Disabilities: A Preliminary Meta-analysis of the Published Literature on Cognitive Processes", Scruggs, T.E. and Mastropieri, M.A. (Ed.) Applications of Research Methodology (Advances in Learning and Behavioral Disabilities, Vol. 19), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 285-314.

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