Cognitive predictors of achievement growth in mathematics: a 5-year longitudinal study

Dev Psychol. 2011 Nov;47(6):1539-52. doi: 10.1037/a0025510. Epub 2011 Sep 26.


The study's goal was to identify the beginning of 1st grade quantitative competencies that predict mathematics achievement start point and growth through 5th grade. Measures of number, counting, and arithmetic competencies were administered in early 1st grade and used to predict mathematics achievement through 5th (n = 177), while controlling for intelligence, working memory, and processing speed. Multilevel models revealed intelligence and processing speed, and the central executive component of working memory predicted achievement or achievement growth in mathematics and, as a contrast domain, word reading. The phonological loop was uniquely predictive of word reading and the visuospatial sketch pad of mathematics. Early fluency in processing and manipulating numerical set size and Arabic numerals, accurate use of sophisticated counting procedures for solving addition problems, and accuracy in making placements on a mathematical number line were uniquely predictive of mathematics achievement. Use of memory-based processes to solve addition problems predicted mathematics and reading achievement but in different ways. The results identify the early quantitative competencies that uniquely contribute to mathematics learning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Executive Function
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Intelligence
  • Knowledge
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mathematics*
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Problem Solving
  • Reading*