Specific Retrieval Deficit from Long-Term Memory in Children with Poor Arithmetic Facts Abilities

C. Mussolin*, M-P. Noël
Department of Cognition and Development, Faculty of Psychology, University of Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

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Copyright: 2008 C. Mussolin
open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Cognition and Development, Faculty of Psychology, University of Louvain, Louvain-la- Neuve, Belgium; Tel: +32 (0)10 47 90 43; Fax: +32 (0)10 47 37 74; E-mail:


The most common characteristic of children with mathematical disorders is a difficulty in retrieving basic arithmetic facts. Different hypotheses about the underlying cause and the specificity of this deficit have been postulated. Some of them are general (such as low speed-of-processing or difficulties in retrieving semantic information from longterm memory), others are more specific (such as problems with material requiring verbal routines or a deficit in representing or accessing arithmetic facts). To clarify this, children with poor arithmetic facts abilities (PoorAF) and control children of the same age performed five computerized tasks requiring the retrieval of information from long-term memory such as the product of multiplication facts, words semantically related to a target, objects functionally associated with a target, countries corresponding to a capital city presented as target, and the final word of incomplete French proverbs. In addition, a perceptual task was used as a measure of children’s processing speed. It was found that children with PoorAF were significantly slower than control children only in the arithmetic retrieval task. These findings support the hypothesis of a specific numerical deficit altering the retrieval of the arithmetic network from long-term memory.

Keywords: Developmental dyscalculia, mathematical disorders, arithmetic development, long-term memory.