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Direct and indirect influences of executive functions on mathematics achievement

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posted on 02.02.2017 by Lucy Cragg, Sarah Keeble, Sophie Richardson, Hannah E. Roome, Camilla Gilmore
Achievement in mathematics is predicted by an individual’s domain-specific factual knowledge, procedural skill and conceptual understanding as well as domain-general executive function skills. In this study we investigated the extent to which executive function skills contribute to these three components of mathematical knowledge, whether this mediates the relationship between executive functions and overall mathematics achievement, and if these relationships change with age. Two hundred and ninety three participants aged between 8 and 25 years completed a large battery of mathematics and executive function tests. Domain-specific skills partially mediated the relationship between executive functions and mathematics achievement: Inhibitory control within the numerical domain was associated with factual knowledge and procedural skill, which in turn was associated with mathematical achievement. Working memory contributed to mathematics achievement indirectly through factual knowledge, procedural skill and, to a lesser extent, conceptual understanding. There remained a substantial direct pathway between working memory and mathematics achievement however, which may reflect the role of working memory in identifying and constructing problem representations. These relationships were remarkably stable from 8 years through to young adulthood. Our findings help to refine existing multi-component frameworks of mathematics and understand the mechanisms by which executive functions support mathematics achievement.

Funding

This research was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (Grant number RES-062-23-3280).

History

School

  • Science

Department

  • Mathematics Education Centre

Published in

Cognition

Citation

CRAGG, L. ...et al., 2017. Direct and indirect influences of executive functions on mathematics achievement. Cognition, 162, pp.12–26

Publisher

Elsevier B.V. (© The Authors)

Version

VoR (Version of Record)

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Acceptance date

19/12/2016

Publication date

2017

Notes

Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http:// creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

ISSN

1873-7838

Language

en

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