Vol. 15 nº 2 - Apr/May/Jun de 2021
Original Article Páginas: 267 a 274

The quandary of diagnosing mathematical difficulties in a generally low performing population

Authors Mariuche Rodrigues de Almeida Gomides; Isabella Starling-Alves; Giulia Moreira Paiva; Leidiane da Silva Caldeira; Ana Luíza Pedrosa Neves Aichinger; Maria Raquel Santos Carvalho; Julia Bahnmueller; Korbinian Moeller; Júlia Beatriz Lopes-Silva; Vitor Geraldi Haase


keywords: diagnosis, dyscalculia, learning disabilities, mathematics.

Brazilian students' mathematical achievement was repeatedly observed to fall below average levels of mathematical attainment in international studies such as PISA. Objective: In this article, we argue that this general low level of mathematical attainment may interfere with the diagnosis of developmental dyscalculia when a psychometric criterion is used establishing an arbitrary cut-off (e.g., performancerd to 5th grades on basic arithmetic operations addition, subtraction, and multiplication. Results: In line with PISA results, children presented difficulties in all arithmetic operations investigated. Even after five years of formal schooling, less than half of 5th graders performed perfectly on simple addition, subtraction, or multiplication problems. Conclusions: As such, these data substantiate the argument that the sole use of a psychometric criterion might not be sensible to diagnose dyscalculia in the context of a generally low performing population, such as Brazilian children of our sample. When the majority of children perform poorly on the task at hand, it is hard to distinguish atypical from typical numerical development. As such, other diagnostic approaches, such as Response to Intervention, might be more suitable in such a context.


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