Our knowledge of the sources that contribute to early arithmetic learning is extremely limited. Only a few models of the relations among domain-general cognitive abilities, domain-specific number competencies, and arithmetic outcomes have been proposed (Krajewski & Schneider, 2009; LeFevre et al., 2010; Zhang, Koponen, Räsänen, Lerkkanen, Aunola, & Nurmi, in press). Most of these do not consider the multiple forms 77 of arithmetic. To fill these gaps, this study examined the relations between early domain-general abilities and children’s fourth-grade performance in written arithmetic, arithmetic word problems, and arithmetic reasoning. We also assessed how symbolic number competence mediated these relations. A total of 378 children, randomly selected from 1,880 Finnish children in the First Steps Study, participated and were followed up from kindergarten to fourth grade. Their performance in written arithmetic, arithmetic word problems, and arithmetic reasoning was tested in fourth grade. Domaingeneral predictors, including linguistic (phonemic awareness, receptive vocabulary, letter knowledge, and RAN), spatial (spatial visualization), and memory (forward and backward short-term memory spans) skills, were assessed in kindergarten and first grade. Symbolic number competencies, including number knowledge and counting sequence knowledge, were measured in first grade. Multivariate multiple regressions were employed to examine domain-general predictors and numerical mediators of arithmetic performance. The results showed that letter knowledge, spatial visualization, and backward spans predicted fourth-grade performance in all the three types of arithmetic. RAN predicted performance in written arithmetic and arithmetic word problems but not arithmetic reasoning. Receptive vocabulary predicted performance in arithmetic word problems but not written arithmetic or arithmetic reasoning. Finally, symbolic number competencies mediated all the relations between domain-general cognitive skills and arithmetic performance except for the relation between receptive vocabulary and arithmetic word problems. These findings underscore the importance of early fundamental underlying skills for developing four-grade competencies in various forms of arithmetic. They also highlight the need to understand the interrelations of these fundamental skills in a comprehensive mediation model of arithmetic development. Copyright © 2014 University of Jyväskylä.
|Publication status||Published - Aug 2014|