The Relationship Between Mathematics Achievement and Working Memory Across Education Level




Iguchi, Naomi Elise Perlman

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The current study examined the relationship between mathematics achievement and working memory and whether this relationship changes across levels of math education. In addition to the effect of working memory on overall math achievement, its effect on three specific areas of math achievement were investigated, including knowledge of basic math facts, calculation skills and application of math concepts. Participants included 136 children and adolescents (age 6-16) who had undergone a comprehensive psychological evaluation. Results indicate that greater auditory working memory capacity predicts a higher level of math achievement in all areas. Auditory working memory explained unique variance, above and beyond the contributions of verbal and nonverbal reasoning and processing speed, in overall math achievement, fact fluency and applied problems, but not calculation skills. The variance in achievement in overall math, fact fluency and calculation skills explained by variance in working memory remained stable across two age groups representing elementary and secondary levels of education. The relationship between these two constructs increased across age for applied problem solving skills. These results provide evidence for the theory that both elementary and secondary level math achievement rely on auditory working memory. Theoretical and practical implications of these results, as well as directions for future research, are discussed.



Math, Working memory, Calculation, Secondary education, Learning disabilities, Cognitive