- The development of executive functions and early mathematics: A dynamic relationship
- British Journal of Educational Psychology
- Volume | Issue number
- 82 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Psychology Research Institute (PsyRes)
Background. The relationship between executive functions and mathematical skills has been studied extensively, but results are inconclusive, and how this relationship evolves longitudinally is largely unknown.
Aim. The aim was to investigate the factor structure of executive functions in inhibition, shifting, and updating; the longitudinal development of executive functions and mathematics; and the relation between them.
Sample. A total of 211 children in grade 2 (7-8 years old) from 10 schools in the Netherlands.
Method. Children were followed in grade 1 and 2 of primary education. Executive functions and mathematics were measured four times. The test battery contained multiple tasks for each executive function: Animal stroop, local global, and Simon task for inhibition; Animal Shifting, Trail Making Test in Colours, and Sorting Task for shifting; and Digit Span Backwards, Odd One Out, and Keep Track for updating. The factor structure of executive functions was assessed and relations with mathematics were investigated using growth modelling.
Results. Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) showed that inhibition and shifting could not be distinguished from each other. Updating was a separate factor, and its development was strongly related to mathematical development while inhibition and shifting did not predict mathematics in the presence of the updating factor.
Conclusions. The strong relationship between updating and mathematics suggest that updating skills play a key role in the maths learning process. This makes updating a promising target for future intervention studies.
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