European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 9, Supplement 2, pp S87–S101 | Cite as

The specific disorder of arithmetic skills. Prevalence studies in a rural and an urban population sample and their clinico-neuropsychological validation

  • Jakob Hein
  • M. W. Bzufka
  • K. J. Neumärker


There is an often noted lack of research in the field of disorders of arithmetic skills. The present study assessed the prevalence in both an urban and a rural population sample of German schoolchildren, using standardized academic achievement tests. Eight school classes of third graders in each area were examined (n=181, 182; respectively). We found that 6.6% (n=12) of the rural and 6.59% (n=12) of the urban school children performed significantly worse in arithmetic than in their spelling tests. Since the diagnostic criteria for the Specific disorder of arithmetical skills and their significance are widely discussed, we attempted in a second step of the study to validate the diagnosis of the Specific disorder of arithmetical skills from a neuropsychological and medical viewpoint. For the validation we assessed clinical data, imaging and neurophysiologic studies as well as a neuropsychological test battery. Nine and five of the children, respectively, were available for this further evaluation. Although the majority of these probands (n=10) had distinct arithmetic deficits, only three of them met the full diagnostic criteria of the ICD-10 for a Specific disorder of arithmetic skills. In a last step, we compared the data of both studies. Our data strongly support a thorough cliniconeurological, neuropsychological and academic assessment of students with a suspected Specific disorder of arithmetic skills. The current diagnostic criteria should be reconsidered and possibly modified towards a more psychopathologic definition. We stress the need that the condition becomes better known among all professions concerned with the care of children, as difficulties with acquiring arithmetic skills should be detected and approached appropriately as early as possible. The imperative demand of future empiric research is emphasized.

Key words

Specific disorder of arithmetic skills prevalence rural and urban German school children MRI 


  1. 1.
    American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (1994). Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric AssociationGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Aronson M, Hagberg B (1998) Neuropsychological disorders in children exposed to alcohol during pregnancy: a follow-up study of 24 children to alcoholic mothers in Goteburg, Sweden. Alcohol — Clinical and Experimental Research 22: 321–324CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Baumert J, Lehmann R (1997) TIMSS-Mathematisch-naturwissenschaftlicher Unterricht im internationalen Vergleich; Deskriptive Befunde. Opladen: Leske + BudrichGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Bründler M (1989) HAWIK-R-Kurzform für 8-9jährige und 10- bis 12-jährige Kinder; Informationstage der Vereinigung Schweizerischer Kinder- und Jugendpsychologen (SKPJ). SolothurnGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Feller G, Hugo K (1981) Mathematiktest für 2. Klassen. Weinheim und Basel: BeltzGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Geary DC (1990) A componential analysis of an early learning deficit in mathematics. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 49: 363–83CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Geary DC, Bow-Thomas CC, Yao Y (1992) Counting knowledge and skill in cognitive addition: a comparison of normal and mathematically disabled children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 54: 372–91CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Geary DC, Hamson CO, Chen G-P (1997) Computational and reasoning abilities in arithmetic: cross-generational change in China and the United States. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review 4: 425–430Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Grissemann H (1996) Dyskalkulie heute. Bern, Göttingen, Toronto, Seattle: Hans HuberGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Gross-Tsur V, Manor O, Shalev RS (1993) Developmental dyscalculia, gender and the brain. Archives of Disease in Childhood 68: 510–512CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Gross-Tsur V, Manor O, Shalev RS (1996) Developmental dyscalculia: prevalence and demographic features. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology 38: 25–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Hitch JG, McAuley E (1991) Working memory in children with specific arithmetical learning difficulties. British Journal of Psychology 82: 375–386PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Huntington DD, Bender WN (1993) Adolescents with learning disabilities at risk? Emotional well-being, depression, suicide. Journal of Learning Disabilities 26: 159–166CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Johnson DJ, Myklebust HR (1967) Learning Disabilities. New York: Grune and StrattonGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Klebanov PK, Brooks-Gunn J, McCormick MC (1994) School achievement and failure in very low birth weight children. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics 15: 248–256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Koperafrye K, Dehaene S, Streissguth AP (1996) Impairments of number processing induced by prenatal alcohol exposure. Neuropsychologia 34: 1187–1196CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Kosc L (1974) Developmental dyscalculia. Journal of Learning Disabilities 7: 46–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Levine MD, Lindsay RL, Reed MS (1992) The wrath of math. Deficiencies of mathematical mastery in the school child. Pediatric Clinics of North America 39: 525–536PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Light JG, DeFries JC (1995) Comorbidity of reading and mathematics disabilities: genetic and environmental etiologies. Journal of Learning Disabilities 28: 96–106CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Müller R (1983) Diagnostischer Rechtschreibtest für 2. Klassen. Weinheim: BeltzGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Müller R (1991) DRT 3 — Diagnostischer Rechtschreibtest, Leistungstest für 3. Klassen: Bearbeitung und Neunormierung 1982, 3. Auflage. Weinheim und Basel: BeltzGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Ostad SA (1997) Developmental differences in addition strategies: a comparison of mathematically disabled and mathematically normal children. British Journal of Educational Psychology 67: 345–357PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Pfüller U, Zerahn-Hartung C (1996) Rechtschrei bleistung, Intelligenz und Händigkeit bei Jugendlichen und jungen Erwachsenen. Eine Untersuchung zu Legasthenie, Normenverschiebung und right-shift-Theorie an einer epidemiologischen Stichprobe Psychologisches Institut, Universität HeidelbergGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Samstag K, Sander A, Schmidt R (1992) DRE 3 — Diagnostischer Rechentest für 3. Klassen. Weinheim und Basel, BeltzGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Schuhfried G (1994) Motorische Leistungsserie. Vienna, Austria: Fa. G. A. Schuhfried, MödlingGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Schuhfried G, Berg M, Fischer A (1994) Vienna Determination Test. Vienna, Austria: Fa. G. A. Schuhfried, MödlingGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Shalev RS, Gross-Tsur V (1993) Developmental dyscalculia and medical assessment. Journal of Learning Disabilities 26: 134–137CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Shalev RS, Manor O, Auerbach J (1998) Persistence of developmental dyscalculia: what counts? Results from a 3-year prospective follow-up study. Journal of Pediatrics 133: 358–362CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Statistik B (1998) Statistische Berichte — Bevölkerung in Berlin. Berlin: Statistisches LandesamtGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Swanson HL (1993) Working memory in learning disability subgroups. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 56: 87–114CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    von Aster MG (1997) Die Störungen des Rechnens und der Zahlenverarbeitung in der kindlichen Entwicklung. Unpublished habilitation thesis, Universität ZürichGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Waldie K, Spreen O (1993) The relationship between learning disabilities and persisting delinquency. Journal of Learning Disabilities 26: 417–423CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    WHO (1992) The ICD-10 classification of mental and behavioural disorders: clinical descriptions and diagnostic guidelines. World Health Organization, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Wright-Strawderman C, Watson BL (1992) The prevalence of depressive symptoms in children with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities 25: 258–264CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Steinkopff-Verlag 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jakob Hein
    • 1
  • M. W. Bzufka
    • 1
  • K. J. Neumärker
    • 1
  1. 1.Clinic of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy Charité Hospital, Campus Mitte Medical Faculty ofHumboldt-University of BerlinBerlinGermany

Personalised recommendations