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Learn Individ Differ. 2010 Apr;20(2):101-109.

Differential contribution of specific working memory components to mathematics achievement in 2nd and 3rd graders.

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1
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, 401 Quarry Road, Palo Alto, CA 94304, United States.

Abstract

The contribution of the three core components of working memory (WM) to the development of mathematical skills in young children is poorly understood. The relation between specific WM components and Numerical Operations, which emphasize computation and fact retrieval, and Mathematical Reasoning, which emphasizes verbal problem solving abilities in 48 2nd and 50 3rd graders was assessed using standardized WM and mathematical achievement measures. For 2nd graders, the central executive and phonological components predicted Mathematical Reasoning skills; whereas the visuo-spatial component predicted both Mathematical Reasoning and Numerical Operations skills in 3rd graders. This pattern suggests that the central executive and phonological loop facilitate performance during early stages of mathematical learning whereas visuo-spatial representations play an increasingly important role during later stages. We propose that these changes reflect a shift from prefrontal to parietal cortical functions during mathematical skill acquisition. Implications for learning and individual differences are discussed.

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