Hitting the Target: Mathematical Attainment in Children Is Related to Interceptive-Timing Ability

Oscar T Giles, Katy A Shire, Liam J B Hill, Faisal Mushtaq, Amanda Waterman, Raymond J Holt, Peter R Culmer, Justin H G Williams, Richard M Wilkie, Mark A Mon-Williams

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Interceptive timing (IntT) is a fundamental ability underpinning numerous actions (e.g. ball catching), but its development and relationship with other cognitive functions remains poorly understood. Piaget (1955) suggested that children need to learn the physical rules that govern their environment before they can represent abstract concepts such as number and time. Thus, learning how objects move in space and time may underpin the development of related abstract representations (i.e. mathematics). To test this hypothesis, we captured objective measures of IntT in 309 primary school children (4-11 years), alongside ‘general motor skill’ and ‘national standardized academic attainment’ scores. Bayesian estimation showed that IntT (but not general motor capability) uniquely predicted mathematical ability even after controlling for age, reading and writing attainment. This finding highlights that interceptive timing is distinct from other motor skills with specificity in predicting childhood mathematical ability independent of other forms of attainment and motor capability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1334-1345
Number of pages12
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number8
Early online date10 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018



  • Interceptive Timing
  • Mathematics
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Education
  • Posture

Cite this

Giles, O. T., Shire, K. A., Hill, L. J. B., Mushtaq, F., Waterman, A., Holt, R. J., ... Mon-Williams, M. A. (2018). Hitting the Target: Mathematical Attainment in Children Is Related to Interceptive-Timing Ability. Psychological Science, 29(8), 1334-1345. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797618772502