A. Tovazzi1, D. Basso2, C. Saracini3

1Ca’ Foscari University of Venice (ITALY)
2Free University of Bozen-Bolzano (ITALY)
3Universidad Católica del Maule, Neuropsychology and Cognitive Neurosciences Research Center / Vicerrectoría de Investigación y Postgrado (CHILE)
Although developmental dyscalculia has a prevalence between 5% and 7%, it does not receive the same public recognition as compared to dyslexia. The low diffusion of scientific studies regarding this specific learning disorder is accompanied to increased difficulties in inclusive classrooms, where teachers are required to meet heterogeneous educational needs. Nowadays, educational interventions for dyscalculia are likely to be limited due to a lack of didactical instruments to help teachers in daily work. The link between research on mathematical diseases and education practice still needs to be consolidated and supported with effective methods and materials.

This article presents a case study involving two primary school students (8 and 9-year-old), attending an Italian public school, one with a diagnosis of dyscalculia and one with difficulties in mathematics. Based on recent studies of cognitive and developmental neuroscience, an educational intervention was carried out to support and reinforce their competence of understanding numerosity, being an essential skill to build mathematical knowledge. According to the learning by doing methodology, students were presented with a series of manipulative activities using interlocking cubes (ArtecBlocks). These were specifically designed for mathematics education, in order to combine gamified manual activity with the opportunity of learning by doing, supporting intrinsic motivation and decreasing math anxiety.

After one month, the intervention showed improvements in both students, but with a different extent. The student with dyscalculia showed significant improvements in counting, in calculation procedures and recall of arithmetic facts, as well as increase in accuracy and control over the result and a reduction in response times. On the other hand, the student with difficulties in mathematics showed limited improvements, mainly due to an increase in her self-efficacy.

Results indicate that the intervention could be successful depending on certain conditions but, more importantly, that the proposed methodology is promising and deserves further investigation.