Assessment of Mathematics Difficulties for Second and Third Graders: Cognitive and Psychological Parameters

Behav Sci (Basel). 2019 Jul 12;9(7):76. doi: 10.3390/bs9070076.


Mathematical achievement during the first years of primary school seems to be a reliable predictor of students' later performance. In addition, cognitive, metacognitive, and psychological parameters are considered to be factors related to mathematical achievement. However, in the Greek educational system, there is a shortage of valid and reliable tools for the assessment of mathematics difficulties and as a consequence, identification of children with these difficulties does not take place before the last years of primary school. This study aims to investigate the relationship between working memory, sustained attention, executive functions, and math anxiety with mathematical achievement in 2nd and 3rd graders. The design of the study was based on the parameters of mathematics difficulties, as they arise from the literature review. Ninety-one Year 2 and Year 3 primary school students (mean age 8.06 years) from three public schools situated in Attica, Greece participated in the study. The students completed three different scales including educational, cognitive, and psychological tasks. Results showed that mathematical skills were significantly correlated with sustained attention, inductive reasoning, math anxiety, and working memory. Moreover, mental arithmetic ability, sustained attention, and working memory predicted mathematical achievement of second and third graders. The study's outcomes verify that sustained attention, inductive reasoning, working memory, and math anxiety are correlated with young students' mathematical performance. The implications of the results for the development of an assessment tool for early detection of mathematics difficulties will be discussed.

Keywords: cognitive skills; math anxiety; math difficulties; mathematical achievement; working memory.