Children's Mathematical Abilities Tied to Three Specific Genetic Variants, Researchers Say

Mathematical ability is moderately heritable, and it is a complex trait which can be evaluated in several different categories. A few genetic studies have been published on general mathematical ability. 

However, no genetic study focused on specific mathematical ability categories. 

In new research, scientists from Shaanxi Normal University and elsewhere performed genome-wide association studies on 11 mathematical ability categories in 1,146 students from Chinese elementary schools.

“Mathematical ability is a complex trait which is the key to excellent performance in study and work,” said Shaanxi Normal University’s Professor Jingjing Zhao and colleagues.

“Substantial heritability estimates (0.2-0.9) have been reported in previous studies indicating that mathematical ability was influenced by genetic factors.”

“In recent years, several genome-wide association studies have been applied to study genetic components associated with mathematical ability.”

“We performed genome-wide association studies in Chinese elementary school students to discover the genetic basis of mathematical ability measured by Heidelberg mathematics test.”

In the research, the authors analyzed 11 mathematical ability categories in 1,146 students from Chinese elementary schools.

They tested 585 significant single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that have been reported to be associated with general mathematical ability in their data.

They identified seven SNPs that were strongly linked to mathematical and reasoning abilities.

Further analyses revealed significant associations of three mathematical ability categories with three genes: LINGO2, OAS1, and HECTD1.

Variants in LINGO2 were associated with subtraction ability, OAS1 variants were associated with spatial conception ability, and HECTD1 variants were associated with division ability.

“Our results provide evidence that different mathematical abilities may have a different genetic basis,” Professor Zhao.

“This study not only refined genome-wide association studies of mathematical ability but also added some population diversity to the literature by testing Chinese children.”


Liming Zhang et al. A genome-wide association study identified new variants associated with mathematical abilities in Chinese children. Genes, Brain and Behavior, published online February 22, 2023; doi: 10.1111/gbb.12843