Personalised teaching and support

Scientific Committee: Daniela Lucangeli
Periodicity: october, february

Vol. 14, n. 1, 2017

Table of Contents


Daniela Lucangeli


Ricerca internazionale

Emma Carey, Francesca Hill, Amy Devine, Dénes Szücs

The chicken or the egg? The direction of the relationship between mathematics anxiety and mathematics performance

DOI: 10.14605/DIM1411701

This review considers the two possible causal directions between mathematics anxiety (MA) and poor mathematics performance. Either poor maths performance may elicit MA (referred to as the Deficit Theory), or MA may reduce future maths performance (referred to as the Debilitating Anxiety Model). The evidence is in conflict: the Deficit Theory is supported by longitudinal studies and studies of children with mathematical learning disabilities, but the Debilitating Anxiety Model is supported by research which manipulates anxiety levels and observes a change in mathematics performance. It is suggested that this mixture of evidence might indicate a bidirectional relationship between MA and mathematics performance (the Reciprocal Theory), in which MA and mathematics performance can influence one another in a vicious cycle.

Ricerca italiana

Dora Tramarin, Sara Caviola, Irene C. Mammarella

Visuo-spatial working memory and calculation abilities:A study of primary school children

DOI: 10.14605/DIM1411702

This study aims to investigate the relationship between calculation abilities and visuo-spatial working memory (VSWM), distinguishing its sub-components (visual, simultaneous spatial and sequential spatial). The study involved 582 children attending primary years four and five; screening enabled 3 groups to be formed, differentiated by level of impairment in calculations (severe, medium and no impairment), around 25 children per group. In the second phase, further tests for assessing calculation abilities, general cognitive functioning and VSWM were administered. The latter was assessed using six computerised tests: two tested visual memory, two simultaneous-spatial memory and two sequential-spatial memory. Results show that only the tests of spatial memory discriminate children with and without calculation difficulties differently, demonstrating a greater involvement of the spatial component of VSWM in calculation abilities.

The principle of the conservation of mechanical energy states that in a conservative system the sum of kinetic plus potential energies remains constant: an increase in one of them is compensated by a decrease in the other. If dissipative forces act, the total energy decreases. Adopting this law in a learning context, imagine the student as a physical system: kinetic energy corresponds with their actions and performances, potential energy corresponds with their hidden abilities and dissipative forces include all obstacle factors such as emotional distress, anxiety and learning difficulties. From this perspective, educational figures have a great chance to act on dissipative factors in order to help students to convert their potential into action. This idea accompanied the mathematical development of Alice, a 9-year-old child with dyslexia and severe difficulties in arithmetic. The article illustrates the phases, principal activities and results of this programme.

Ricerca italiana

Giulia Lampugnani

Dyscalculia as a specific learning characteristic: Integrated intervention on a case study

DOI: 10.14605/DIM1411704

This essay presents a case study regarding intervention for a female twelve-year-old student with a late diagnosis of Dyscalculia, with a minor deficit in executive functions. Pre-testing with standardised tests show difficulties in numerical facts and calculation; moreover, there is specific math’s anxiety. The intervention is described, constituting specific individual treatment on calculation combined with group work with theatrical techniques to support motivation and awareness of her learning characteristics. It intends to highlight how to support pupils in considering dyscalculia not only as a disturbance, but as a learning characteristic, towards which learning strategies and motivation could be the key to discover themselves as capable and interested in continued learning on their path.

This article describes a programme for developing maths abilities, which targeted two female pupils attending lower secondary school. The experience came about as part of the «Maths malaise…» project, which was undertaken in the 2015/2016 school year with the aim of identifying pupils in the lower secondary school classes of a unified institute with specific difficulties in mathematics, creating a profile and activating specific activities for development. Cases were identified by administering the AC-MT 11-14 tests (Cornoldi and Cazzola, 2003) and the MEMA test (Caponi et al., 2012) at the beginning of the year. From the data collected the two cases examined in this article emerged and specific activities for developing numerical competence, calculations and the metacognitive components which support learning were designed. At the end of the development programme the two tests were re-administered and data was compared, demonstrating the effectiveness of the programme. The study programme also attempted to establish, in terms of optimising the resources available in a normal school setting, the feasibility of such activities, which are different from and more innovative than remedial activities normally offered, in curricular and extra-curricular times.