Working memory deficit in children with mathematical difficulties

A general or specific deficit?

Ulf Andersson*, Björn Lyxell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

140 Citations (Scopus)


This study examined whether children with mathematical difficulties (MDs) or comorbid mathematical and reading difficulties have a working memory deficit and whether the hypothesized working memory deficit includes the whole working memory system or only specific components. In the study, 31 10-year-olds with MDs and 37 10-year-olds with both mathematical and reading difficulties were compared with 47 age-matched and 50 younger controls (9-year-olds) on a number of working memory tasks. Compared with the age-matched controls, both groups of children with MDs performed worse on tasks tapping the central executive (e.g., visual matrix span) and the phonological loop (e.g., word span). More important, the MD group performed worse than the younger controls on the counting span task, whereas the group with comorbid mathematical and reading difficulties performed worse on the counting span task and the visual matrix span task. These findings provide support for the assumption that children with MDs have a working memory deficit. More specifically, children with MDs have a central executive deficit connected to concurrent processing and storage of numerical and visual information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-228
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007


  • Central executive
  • Mathematical difficulties
  • Phonological loop
  • Short-term memory
  • Visuospatial sketchpad
  • Working memory

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