5. Mathematics difficulties
Of all the subjects studied at school, children born preterm are most likely to have difficulties with maths.
A study in the UK has shown that 34% of children born very preterm had difficulties learning maths in Key Stage 2, at 7 to 11 years of age, compared with just 16% of their classmates who were born at term.
Importantly, and in contrast to reading difficulties, maths difficulties are not explained by the very preterm children’s lower IQ. This suggests that there is something about maths that children born preterm find especially difficult.
Watch the animation to find out why preterm children might struggle with maths in particular.
Learning and performing maths draws on a wide range of underlying skills. These skills can be categorised as either number skills or more general thinking skills. Developmental Dyscalculia is a specific learning difficulty with maths. Research suggests that dyscalculia stems from poor number skills, counting and estimation.
In contrast, children born preterm tend to struggle more with general thinking skills that are not specific to maths yet are very important for many aspects of mathematical processing. Because preterm children have very different underlying difficulties causing their poor attainment in mathematics, they are likely to need different support to children with Developmental Dyscalculia.