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2-191 - Unpacking Associations between Children’s Early Executive Function and Mathematics Skills

Fri, March 22, 3:00 to 4:30pm, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 3, Room 342

Session Type: Paper Symposium

Integrative Statement

Researchers hypothesize that children’s executive function (EF) is of central importance in supporting mathematics achievement (Bull et al., 2008). Furthermore, neuropsychological research suggests a deep connection between EF and mathematics, as they tend to activate the same areas of the brain and both undergo rapid development in early childhood (Best & Miller, 2010). The strong theoretical links, and emerging studies supporting the association, call for a deeper understanding of the interconnection between young children’s EF and mathematics skills, the potential mechanisms underlying this association, and ways that teachers can support growth in both areas. The proposed paper symposium draws on data from diverse data sets to achieve this aim. Two papers (Bezdek et al., Mulcahy et al.) examine whether gains in mathematics achievement are related to specific components of EF at pre-k entry. The third study (Whittaker et al.) examines classroom engagement as a mechanism through which EF is associated with mathematics gains in the pre-k year, and whether these associations are moderated by gender. The final paper (Nguyen et al.) explores whether correlations among EF tasks and mathematics achievement are consistent with the hypothesis that the association between EF and mathematics achievement operates through specific components of EF, through a single reflective latent EF factor, or both. There is significant potential of the proposed symposium to advance knowledge in several areas including better understanding the inter-relations among children’s EF and mathematics skills, and informing knowledge about how to improve early childhood teachers’ support of children’s skills in these areas.

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