Early Mathematical Learning: Number Processing Skills and Executive Function at 5 and 8 Years of Age

Sonia L. J. White,Donna Berthelsen,Sue Walker,Kate E. Williams
page. 45~66 / 2015 Vol.9 No.3


This research investigated differences and associations in performance in number processing andexecutive function for children attending primary school in a large Australian metropolitan city. In across-sectional study, performance of 25 children in the first full-time year of school, (Prep; mean age =5.5 years) and 21 children in Year 3 (mean age = 8.5 years) completed three number processing tasksand three executive function tasks. Year 3 children consistently outperformed the Prep year children onmeasures of accuracy and reaction time, on the tasks of number comparison, calculation, shifting, andinhibition but not on number line estimation. The components of executive function (shifting, inhibition,and working memory) showed different patterns of correlation to performance on number processingtasks across the early years of school. Findings could be used to enhance teachers’ understanding aboutthe role of the cognitive processes employed by children in numeracy learning, and so inform teachers’classroom practices.

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