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The contributions of domain-general and numerical factors to third-grade arithmetic skills and mathematical learning disability

Cowan, R. and Powell, D. ORCID: (2014) The contributions of domain-general and numerical factors to third-grade arithmetic skills and mathematical learning disability. Journal of Educational Psychology, 106 (1). pp. 214-229. ISSN 0022-0663

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1037/a0034097


Explanations of the marked individual differences in elementary school mathematical achievement and mathematical learning disability (MLD or dyscalculia) have involved domain-general factors (working memory, reasoning, processing speed and oral language) and numerical factors that include single-digit processing efficiency and multi-digit skills such as number system knowledge and estimation. This study of third graders (N = 258) finds both domain-general and numerical factors contribute independently to explaining variation in three significant arithmetic skills: basic calculation fluency, written multi-digit computation, and arithmetic word problems. Estimation accuracy and number system knowledge show the strongest associations with every skill and their contributions are both independent of each other and other factors. Different domain-general factors independently account for variation in each skill. Numeral comparison, a single digit processing skill, uniquely accounts for variation in basic calculation. Subsamples of children with MLD (at or below 10th percentile, n = 29) are compared with low achievement (LA, 11th to 25th percentiles, n = 42) and typical achievement (above 25th percentile, n = 187). Examination of these and subsets with persistent difficulties supports a multiple deficits view of number difficulties: most children with number difficulties exhibit deficits in both domain-general and numerical factors. The only factor deficit common to all persistent MLD children is in multi-digit skills. These findings indicate that many factors matter but multi-digit skills matter most in third grade mathematical achievement.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Institute of Education > Language and Literacy in Education
ID Code:33226
Publisher:American Psychological Association


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