Working memory and literacy as predictors of performance on algebraic word problems

Kerry LEE, Swee Fong NG, Ee Lynn NG, Zee Ying LIM

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

93 Citations (Scopus)


Previous studies on individual differences in mathematical abilities have shown that working memory contributes to early arithmetic performance. In this study, we extended the investigation to algebraic word problem solving. A total of 151 10-year-olds were administered algebraic word problems and measures of working memory, intelligence quotient (IQ), and reading ability. Regression results were consistent with findings from the arithmetic literature showing that a literacy composite measure provided greater contribution than did executive function capacity. However, a series of path analyses showed that the overall contribution of executive function was comparable to that of literacy; the effect of executive function was mediated by that of literacy. Both the phonological loop and the visual spatial sketchpad failed to contribute directly; they contributed only indirectly by way of literacy and performance IQ, respectively. Copyright © 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-158
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2004



Lee, K., Ng, S.-F., Ng, E.-L., & Lim, Z.-Y. (2004). Working memory and literacy as predictors of performance on algebraic word problems. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 89(2), 140-158. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2004.07.001


  • Short-term memory
  • Reading comprehension
  • Executive functions
  • Cognitive processes
  • Mathematical ability
  • Problem solving