Understanding words, understanding numbers: An exploration of the mathematical profiles of poor comprehenders

Hannah Pimperton*, Kate Nation

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    42 Citations (Scopus)


    Background. Poor comprehenders are children who show significant deficits in their reading comprehension performance, despite average, or above-average word reading ability. To date, there have been no in-depth studies of the mathematical performance profiles of such children. Aims. This study aimed to explore the mathematical profiles of poor comprehenders. Given that language impairment is associated with difficulties with mathematics, and that poor comprehenders tend to have oral language weaknesses, we hypothesized that poor comprehenders would show relative weaknesses in aspects of mathematical performance. Sample. From a sample of 109 children aged 7-8 years, we selected 14 poor comprehenders and 14 controls with age-appropriate reading comprehension ability. The groups were matched on non-verbal ability, multiple measures of reading accuracy, and chronological age. Methods. We compared the performance of the group of poor comprehenders with that of the matched controls on two standardized measures of mathematical ability, one measuring procedural arithmetic prowess and the other tapping higher-level mathematical reasoning. Results. Although there were no group differences in performance on the arithmetic measure, the poor comprehenders showed significantly lower scores than the controls on the mathematical reasoning task. The poor comprehenders exhibited impaired verbal ability relative to controls, with these differences in verbal ability associated with the group differences found on the test of mathematical reasoning. Conclusions. Poor comprehenders'deficits are not limited to the domain of literacy; their underlying profile of impairments also seems to selectively impact on certain components of mathematical ability.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)255-268
    Number of pages14
    JournalBritish Journal of Educational Psychology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010


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