Relationships between facets of working memory and performance on a curriculum-based mathematics test in children

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The involvement of different components of working memory in children’s mathematicalreasoning was investigated by administering four memory span tasks and a curriculumbasedtest of mathematics to 9- to 10-year-old children. The mathematics test containednumber, space and measurement sections, and the span tasks differed as to whether sequencescomprised auditory-verbal or visual-spatial items and whether recall involved the entiresequence (fixed span), or a subset of items from the end of a supraspan sequence (runningspan). The running span tasks were expected to require updating, and therefore involve executivemechanisms in addition to systems specialised for retaining verbal and spatial information.Surprisingly, the two fixed span variables accounted for more variance than the tworunning span variables in mathematics test scores. Also, fixed spatial span generallyaccounted for more variance in mathematics performance than did fixed verbal span, althoughthe latter did make significant unique contributions in predicting scores from two sections ofthe mathematics test. These outcomes were unchanged when a measure of single word readingwas used as a control variable. Discussion centres on the involvement of spatial and verbalshort-term memory in different forms of mathematical reasoning. It is argued that runningmemory tasks may invoke various executive processes depending on their precise structure,and some of these processes may not be critical to mathematical reasoning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-92
JournalEducational and Child Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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