NumberTalk - Mathematical skills of children with SLI

Around 7% of children have significant difficulties acquiring the skills of language (specific language impairments or SLI), though their non-verbal skills appear to develop normally. We know that this group has generally poor attainments in maths, but recent studies have shown that (a) there are areas of maths in which they perform surprisingly well and (b) some individuals with SLI do much better than others.

This project used innovative methods to assess a range of mathematical abilities in a large sample of eight year olds, comparing children with SLI to selected control groups in order to uncover the ways in which different aspects of language development support mathematical learning.

The study addressed current theoretical issues concerning the links between maths and language while at the same time taking account of the effects of specialized teaching and offering new insights into the factors affecting mathematical progress of children with special needs. A significant proportion of project resources was devoted to the development of new tools for assessing children’s understanding of mathematical language on the one hand and non-verbal mathematical skills on the other.

Project details



Dr Chris Donlan, University College London

Grant amount and duration

1 May 2001 - 31 July 2003



'The role of language in mathematical development: Evidence from children with specific language impairments', Donlan C, Cowan R, Newton E J, Lloyd D, Cognition, 2007

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'Number Skills and Knowledge in Children with Specific Language Impairment', Cowan R, Donlan C, Newton E J, Lloyd D, Journal of Educational Psychology, 2005

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Afasic Abstract Spring 2005

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Afasic Newsletter 03/2004, p. 12-13

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