Gilmore_Etiology of persistent mathematics difficulties from childhood to adolescence following very preterm birth.pdf (994.13 kB)

Etiology of persistent mathematics difficulties from childhood to adolescence following very preterm birth

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journal contribution
posted on 13.09.2021, 14:51 by Sarah Clayton, Victoria Simms, Lucy Cragg, Camilla GilmoreCamilla Gilmore, Neil Marlow, Rebecca Spong, Samantha Johnson
Children born very preterm (VP; <32 weeks’ gestation) have poorer mathematics achievement than term-born peers. This study aimed to determine whether VP children’s mathematics difficulties persist from primary to secondary school and to explore the nature of mathematics difficulties in adolescence. For this study, 127 VP and 95 term-born adolescents were assessed at age 11-15 years. Mathematics achievement was assessed using the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test-II. Specific mathematics skills and general cognitive skills were assessed using standardised and experimental tests. Overall, VP adolescents had poorer mathematics achievement than term-born adolescents (-10.95 points; 95% CI -16.18, -5.73) and poorer performance on tests of number fact knowledge, understanding of arithmetic concepts, written arithmetic, counting, reading and writing large numbers, and algebra. Between-group differences in specific mathematics skills were no longer significant when working memory and visuospatial skills were controlled for (all p’s >0.05), with the exception of writing large numbers and conceptual understanding of arithmetic. In a previous study, 83 of the VP adolescents and 49 of the term-born adolescents were assessed at age 8-10 years using measures of the same skills. Amongst these, the between-group difference in mathematics achievement remained stable over time. In conclusion, this study extends findings of a persistent deficit in mathematics achievement among VP children over the primary and secondary school years, and provides evidence of a deficit in factual, procedural and conceptual mathematics skills and in higher order mathematical operations among VP adolescents. Moreover, we provide further evidence that VP children’s mathematics difficulties are driven by deficits in domaingeneral rather than domain-specific cognitive skills. Early school support is needed to improve academic outcomes in this population.


Action Medical Research project grant (Ref: GN2311)



  • Science


  • Mathematical Sciences

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Child Neuropsychology


Taylor & Francis (Routledge)


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This is an Open Access Article. It is published by Taylor and Francis under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). Full details of this licence are available at:

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Prof Camilla Gilmore. Deposit date: 13 July 2021