Domain-general cognitive skills

Research has long verified that intelligence is strongly correlated with academic performance, especially in mathematics. To understand what contributes to this correlation, researchers have investigated separate cognitive elements. For example, executive functioning (McClelland, Acock, & Morrison, 2006) and rapid automatized naming (Georgiou, Tziraki, Manolitsis, & Fella, 2013) have been identified as affecting the learning of early mathematical skills. In particular, visuo-spatial working memory, which constitutes an aspect of the executive functions, plays an important role in young children’s numeracy skills development (Kyttälä, Aunio, & Hautamäki 2010). LeFevre and colleagues (2010) suggest that the general linguistic pathway is one of the three key developmental pathways by which children acquire numeracy skills. In line with LeFevre et al. (2010), Durand, Hulme, Larkin and Snowling (2005) and Jordan et al. (2007), deficits in literacy skills may result in slower numeracy development. More specifically, Purpura and Napoli (2015) have found that language skills especially affect informal numeracy knowledge (i.e. flexibly connecting quantities to number words and understanding relations among quantities).



  • Durand, M., Hulme, C., Larkin, R., & Snowling, M. (2005). The cognitive foundations of reading and arithmetic skills in 7- to 10-year-olds. Journal of Exceptional Child Psychology, 91(2), 113–136.
  • Georgiou, G., Tziraki, N., Manolitsis, G., & Fella, A. (2013). Is RAN related to reading and mathematics for the same reason(s)? A follow-up study from kindergarten to grade 1. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 115,481–496.
  • Jordan, N. C., Kaplan, D., Locuniak, M. N., & Ramineni. C. (2007). Predicting first-grade math achievement from developmental number sense trajectories. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 22(1), 36–46.
  • Kyttälä, M., Aunio, P., & Hautamäki, J. (2010) Working memory resources in young children with mathematical difficulties. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 51, 1–15.
  • LeFevre, J. A., Fast, L., Skwarchuk, S. L., Smith-Chant, B. L., Bisanz, J., Kamawar, J., & Penner-Wilger, M. (2010). Pathways to mathematics: Longitudinal predictors of performance. Child Development, 81(6), 1753–1767.
  • McClelland, M. M., Acock, A. C., & Morrison, F. J. (2006). The impact of kindergarten learning-related skills on academic trajectories at the end of elementary school. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 24(4), 471–490.
  • Purpura, D. J., & Napoli, A. R. (2015). Early numeracy and literacy: Untangling the relation between specific components. Mathematical Thinking and Learning, 17 (2-3). Advance online publication. doi:10.1080/10986065.2015.1016817