Improving Opportunities for Young People with a Math Learning Disability

Thanks to strong cognitive skills, many children suffering from a math learning disability can compensate for their condition until they reach secondary school. At this stage in their education, however, the school curriculum becomes too complex. Specific measures are needed to address the basic skills that these teenagers and young adults have missed out on.

Children who have a math learning disability, or dyscalculia, can still do well in school but often fail to reach their learning goals. Possible causes of dyscalculia include genetic predisposition, various environmental factors, and deficits in the brain development.

No support for math weakness

Recurring negative learning experiences and failures in math class not only affect the children’s educational opportunities, but also harm their mental health. Filling the gaps requires structured and individual support measures. Unfortunately, these measures aren’t available to the extent needed. And the later the disability is identified, the more difficult it becomes to work through these gaps, especially since there are no support and help programs for teenagers and young adults. This is where the interdisciplinary research project comes in.

The research team is investigating whether the math basics that children were unable to develop as a result of dyscalculia can be made up for during adolescence and young adulthood. In addition, the researchers are exploring how support measures specifically aimed at a math learning disability change the neural processes in the brain.

«A math learning disability often affects the educational opportunities of young people. And there are no evaluated concepts yet to support them. Our research project aims to change this.»

Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Moser Opitz, professor of special education with focus on inclusion and instruction, Institute of Education, UZH

Positive effects on society

The project is a promising combination of educational-didactic and neuroscientific research. With its strong emphasis on application, the project is of great relevance to our society. It will provide teenagers and young adults suffering from dyscalculia with a concrete and unique set of measures that will help them close their math knowledge gaps. This significantly improves their educational opportunities and job prospects, and promotes equal opportunities. The benefits of this targeted help are likely to also improve the young people’s mental health, which will ultimately also positively affect healthcare costs in our society.

The support concept developed as part of the research project will be prepared for practical use and made available free of charge to teachers, therapists and instructors in education institutions. The findings will also be presented to the public through lectures and workshops.


Sabine Schweidler
Partnerships and Philanthropy

+41 44 634 61 85