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

Cowan, Richard and Powell, Daisy (2014) The contributions of domain-general and numerical factors to third-grade arithmetic skills and mathematical learning disability. Journal of Educational Psychology, 106. pp. 214-229. ISSN 0022-0663. DOI UNSPECIFIED

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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
Controlled Keywords: mathematics, estimation, Primary school, learning disabilities, Learning, Age Group, Schools and Teaching, Psychology(all), Neuroscience(all)
Divisions: IOE Departments > Departments > Psychology and Human Development
Depositing User: Atira Pure
Date Deposited: 18 Oct 2013 10:26
Last Modified: 29 Jan 2015 09:06
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