Mathematical outcomes and working memory in children with TBI and orthopedic injury

J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2013 Mar;19(3):254-63. doi: 10.1017/S1355617712001312. Epub 2012 Nov 20.


This study compared mathematical outcomes in children with predominantly moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI; n550) or orthopedic injury (OI; n547) at 2 and 24 months post-injury. Working memory and its contribution to math outcomes at 24 months post-injury was also examined. Participants were administered an experimental cognitive addition task and standardized measures of calculation, math fluency, and applied problems; as well as experimental measures of verbal and visual-spatial working memory. Although children with TBI did not have deficits in foundational math fact retrieval, they performed more poorly than OIs on standardized measures of math. In the TBI group, performance on standardized measures was predicted by age at injury, socioeconomic status, and the duration of impaired consciousness. Children with TBI showed impairments on verbal, but not visual working memory relative to children with OI. Verbal working memory mediated group differences on math calculations and applied problems at 24 months post-injury. Children with TBI have difficulties in mathematics, but do not have deficits in math fact retrieval, a signature deficit of math disabilities. Results are discussed with reference to models of mathematical cognition and disability and the role of working memory in math learning and performance for children with TBI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Bone Diseases / complications
  • Brain Injuries / complications*
  • Brain Injuries / surgery
  • Child
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mathematics*
  • Memory Disorders / diagnosis
  • Memory Disorders / etiology*
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Orthopedics
  • Time Factors
  • Verbal Learning