The cognitive underpinnings of emerging mathematical skills: Executive functioning, patterns, numeracy, and arithmetic

Kerry Lee, Swee Fong Ng, Madeline Lee Pe, Su Yin Ang, Muhammad Nabil Azhar Mohd Hasshim, Rebecca Bull

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

57 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Exposure to mathematical pattern tasks is often deemed important for developing children's algebraic thinking skills. Yet, there is a dearth of evidence on the cognitive underpinnings of pattern tasks and how early competencies on these tasks are related to later development.

Aims: We examined the domain-specific and domain-general determinants of performances on pattern tasks by using (a) a standardized test of numerical and arithmetic proficiency and (b) measures of executive functioning, respectively.

Sample: Participants were 163 6-year-olds enrolled in primary schools that typically serve families from low to middle socioeconomic backgrounds.

Method: Children were administered a battery of executive functioning (inhibitory, switching, updating), numerical and arithmetic proficiency (the Numerical Operations task from theWechsler Individual Achievement Test-II), and three types of pattern tasks.

Results: Contrary to findings from the adult literature, we found all the executive functioning measures coalesced into two factors: updating and an inhibition/switch factor. Only the updating factor predicted performances on the pattern tasks. Although performance on the pattern tasks were correlated with numerical and arithmetic proficiency, findings from structural equation modelling showed that there were no direct or independent relationships between them.

Conclusions: The findings suggest that the bivariate relationships between pattern, numeracy, and arithmetic tasks are likely due to their shared demands on updating resources. Unlike older children, these findings suggest that for 6-year-olds, better numerical and arithmetic proficiency, without accompanying advantages in updating capacities, will no more likely lead to better performance on the pattern tasks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-99
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Educational psychology
Volume82
Issue number1
Early online date6 Jan 2011
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012

Fingerprint

performance
achievement test
primary school
determinants
resources
evidence
Inhibition (Psychology)
Thinking
literature

Keywords

  • algebraic word-problems
  • latent variable analysis
  • working-memory
  • processing speed
  • children
  • intelligence
  • inhibition

Cite this

The cognitive underpinnings of emerging mathematical skills : Executive functioning, patterns, numeracy, and arithmetic. / Lee, Kerry; Ng, Swee Fong; Pe, Madeline Lee; Ang, Su Yin; Hasshim, Muhammad Nabil Azhar Mohd; Bull, Rebecca.

In: British Journal of Educational psychology, Vol. 82, No. 1, 03.2012, p. 82-99.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Lee, Kerry ; Ng, Swee Fong ; Pe, Madeline Lee ; Ang, Su Yin ; Hasshim, Muhammad Nabil Azhar Mohd ; Bull, Rebecca. / The cognitive underpinnings of emerging mathematical skills : Executive functioning, patterns, numeracy, and arithmetic. In: British Journal of Educational psychology. 2012 ; Vol. 82, No. 1. pp. 82-99.
@article{fee28709bec549c5be4e5b85a9d6d693,
title = "The cognitive underpinnings of emerging mathematical skills: Executive functioning, patterns, numeracy, and arithmetic",
abstract = "Background: Exposure to mathematical pattern tasks is often deemed important for developing children's algebraic thinking skills. Yet, there is a dearth of evidence on the cognitive underpinnings of pattern tasks and how early competencies on these tasks are related to later development.Aims: We examined the domain-specific and domain-general determinants of performances on pattern tasks by using (a) a standardized test of numerical and arithmetic proficiency and (b) measures of executive functioning, respectively.Sample: Participants were 163 6-year-olds enrolled in primary schools that typically serve families from low to middle socioeconomic backgrounds.Method: Children were administered a battery of executive functioning (inhibitory, switching, updating), numerical and arithmetic proficiency (the Numerical Operations task from theWechsler Individual Achievement Test-II), and three types of pattern tasks.Results: Contrary to findings from the adult literature, we found all the executive functioning measures coalesced into two factors: updating and an inhibition/switch factor. Only the updating factor predicted performances on the pattern tasks. Although performance on the pattern tasks were correlated with numerical and arithmetic proficiency, findings from structural equation modelling showed that there were no direct or independent relationships between them.Conclusions: The findings suggest that the bivariate relationships between pattern, numeracy, and arithmetic tasks are likely due to their shared demands on updating resources. Unlike older children, these findings suggest that for 6-year-olds, better numerical and arithmetic proficiency, without accompanying advantages in updating capacities, will no more likely lead to better performance on the pattern tasks.",
keywords = "algebraic word-problems, latent variable analysis, working-memory, processing speed, children, intelligence, inhibition",
author = "Kerry Lee and Ng, {Swee Fong} and Pe, {Madeline Lee} and Ang, {Su Yin} and Hasshim, {Muhammad Nabil Azhar Mohd} and Rebecca Bull",
note = "{\circledC}2010 The British Psychological Society.",
year = "2012",
month = "3",
doi = "10.1111/j.2044-8279.2010.02016.x",
language = "English",
volume = "82",
pages = "82--99",
journal = "British Journal of Educational psychology",
issn = "0007-0998",
publisher = "Wiley-Blackwell",
number = "1",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - The cognitive underpinnings of emerging mathematical skills

T2 - Executive functioning, patterns, numeracy, and arithmetic

AU - Lee, Kerry

AU - Ng, Swee Fong

AU - Pe, Madeline Lee

AU - Ang, Su Yin

AU - Hasshim, Muhammad Nabil Azhar Mohd

AU - Bull, Rebecca

N1 - ©2010 The British Psychological Society.

PY - 2012/3

Y1 - 2012/3

N2 - Background: Exposure to mathematical pattern tasks is often deemed important for developing children's algebraic thinking skills. Yet, there is a dearth of evidence on the cognitive underpinnings of pattern tasks and how early competencies on these tasks are related to later development.Aims: We examined the domain-specific and domain-general determinants of performances on pattern tasks by using (a) a standardized test of numerical and arithmetic proficiency and (b) measures of executive functioning, respectively.Sample: Participants were 163 6-year-olds enrolled in primary schools that typically serve families from low to middle socioeconomic backgrounds.Method: Children were administered a battery of executive functioning (inhibitory, switching, updating), numerical and arithmetic proficiency (the Numerical Operations task from theWechsler Individual Achievement Test-II), and three types of pattern tasks.Results: Contrary to findings from the adult literature, we found all the executive functioning measures coalesced into two factors: updating and an inhibition/switch factor. Only the updating factor predicted performances on the pattern tasks. Although performance on the pattern tasks were correlated with numerical and arithmetic proficiency, findings from structural equation modelling showed that there were no direct or independent relationships between them.Conclusions: The findings suggest that the bivariate relationships between pattern, numeracy, and arithmetic tasks are likely due to their shared demands on updating resources. Unlike older children, these findings suggest that for 6-year-olds, better numerical and arithmetic proficiency, without accompanying advantages in updating capacities, will no more likely lead to better performance on the pattern tasks.

AB - Background: Exposure to mathematical pattern tasks is often deemed important for developing children's algebraic thinking skills. Yet, there is a dearth of evidence on the cognitive underpinnings of pattern tasks and how early competencies on these tasks are related to later development.Aims: We examined the domain-specific and domain-general determinants of performances on pattern tasks by using (a) a standardized test of numerical and arithmetic proficiency and (b) measures of executive functioning, respectively.Sample: Participants were 163 6-year-olds enrolled in primary schools that typically serve families from low to middle socioeconomic backgrounds.Method: Children were administered a battery of executive functioning (inhibitory, switching, updating), numerical and arithmetic proficiency (the Numerical Operations task from theWechsler Individual Achievement Test-II), and three types of pattern tasks.Results: Contrary to findings from the adult literature, we found all the executive functioning measures coalesced into two factors: updating and an inhibition/switch factor. Only the updating factor predicted performances on the pattern tasks. Although performance on the pattern tasks were correlated with numerical and arithmetic proficiency, findings from structural equation modelling showed that there were no direct or independent relationships between them.Conclusions: The findings suggest that the bivariate relationships between pattern, numeracy, and arithmetic tasks are likely due to their shared demands on updating resources. Unlike older children, these findings suggest that for 6-year-olds, better numerical and arithmetic proficiency, without accompanying advantages in updating capacities, will no more likely lead to better performance on the pattern tasks.

KW - algebraic word-problems

KW - latent variable analysis

KW - working-memory

KW - processing speed

KW - children

KW - intelligence

KW - inhibition

U2 - 10.1111/j.2044-8279.2010.02016.x

DO - 10.1111/j.2044-8279.2010.02016.x

M3 - Article

C2 - 22429059

VL - 82

SP - 82

EP - 99

JO - British Journal of Educational psychology

JF - British Journal of Educational psychology

SN - 0007-0998

IS - 1

ER -