Predicting children's reading and mathematics achievement from early quantitative knowledge and domain-general cognitive abilities

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Abstract

One hundred children (44 boys) participated in a 3-year longitudinal study of the development of basic quantitative competencies and the relation between these competencies and later mathematics and reading achievement. The children's preliteracy knowledge, intelligence, executive functions, and parental educational background were also assessed. The quantitative tasks assessed a broad range of symbolic and nonsymbolic knowledge and were administered four times across 2 years of preschool. Mathematics achievement was assessed at the end of each of 2 years of preschool, and mathematics and word reading achievement were assessed at the end of kindergarten. Our goals were to determine how domain-general abilities contribute to growth in children's quantitative knowledge and to determine how domain-general and domain-specific abilities contribute to children's preschool mathematics achievement and kindergarten mathematics and reading achievement. We first identified four core quantitative competencies (e.g., knowledge of the cardinal value of number words) that predict later mathematics achievement. The domain-general abilities were then used to predict growth in these competencies across 2 years of preschool, and the combination of domain-general abilities, preliteracy skills, and core quantitative competencies were used to predict mathematics achievement across preschool and mathematics and word reading achievement at the end of kindergarten. Both intelligence and executive functions predicted growth in the four quantitative competencies, especially across the first year of preschool. A combination of domain-general and domain-specific competencies predicted preschoolers' mathematics achievement, with a trend for domain-specific skills to be more strongly related to achievement at the beginning of preschool than at the end of preschool. Preschool preliteracy skills, sensitivity to the relative quantities of collections of objects, and cardinal knowledge predicted reading and mathematics achievement at the end of kindergarten. Preliteracy skills were more strongly related to word reading, whereas sensitivity to relative quantity was more strongly related to mathematics achievement. The overall results indicate that a combination of domain-general and domain-specific abilities contribute to development of children's early mathematics and reading achievement.

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Chu, F. W., Van Marle, K., & Geary, D. C. (2016). Predicting children’s reading and mathematics achievement from early quantitative knowledge and domain-general cognitive abilities. Frontiers in Psychology, 7(MAY). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00775

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