Associations Between Executive Functions and Mathematics Across the First Three Years of Elementary School: Longitudinal Cross-Lagged Analysis
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractDevelopmental studies among preschoolers indicate bidirectional associations (BAs) between executive functions (EFs) and mathematics skills. In particular, developmental studies found that preschoolers’ beginning EFs predict gain in mathematics and preschoolers’ beginning mathematics predicts gain in EFs at the end of pre-kindergarten. This is because EFs and mathematics skills share common cognitive resources, providing co-mutual support for the development of each other simultaneously. The result of BAs between EFs and mathematics model is limited to preschoolers with low socioeconomic background. The literature is left with a question about whether the BAs between EFs and mathematics model can be generalized to the first three years of elementary school and across children from different socioeconomic backgrounds. The current study used a longitudinal cross-lagged design to address the external validity issue by examining whether the BAs between EFs and mathematics hold across a nationally representative sample (N= 2315) across the first three years of elementary school (kindergarten, first, and second grade). Two components of EFs, cognitive flexibility and working memory, were examined separately. Results indicated that each of the EFs components, cognitive flexibility and working memory, had BAs with mathematics from the fall of kindergarten through the spring of second grade. For generalizability of BAs between EFs and mathematics model across children from different economic family status (below, at, and above the federal poverty line), results showed that the BAs between cognitive flexibility and mathematics and the BAs between working memory and mathematics models were invariant across the three poverty groups. Limitations and recommendations for future work were discussed.
Degree ProgramGraduate College