Charity launches pioneering research project

AROUND 160 schoolchildren are taking part in a pioneering research project funded by Horsham based Action Medical Research to try and understand the links between premature birth and struggling with maths.

This project is being launched to link with the first ever World Prematurity Day, which is today (Thursday November 17).

Half of the children involved, from London and Leicester, were born more than eight weeks early and each of them is being studied along with a classmate who was born at full term. The children are all aged eight to ten and a psychologist, who has no knowledge of which children are which, will be assessing their learning and maths skills in school.

Children’s charity Action Medical Research has funded the project with a grant of £159,464 over two years, as part of its drive to fund vital research to help babies and children.

Over 10,000 babies are born very prematurely (more than eight weeks early), each year in the UK.

Sadly, many go on to develop learning disabilities. Difficulties with mathematics are especially common in these children.

A maths disability can have far-reaching consequences throughout life and children can have special educational needs at school.

The researchers are investigating the nature and causes of premature children’s difficulties with maths with the longer term aim of finding ways to boost their performance.

These difficulties with maths seem to be very particular, and cannot be accounted for simply by a lower IQ, for example.