The Contribution of Numerical Magnitude Comparison and Phonological Processing to Individual Differences in Fourth Graders' Multiplication Fact Ability

Tamara M J Schleepen, Hanneke I Van Mier, Bert De Smedt

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Abstract

Although numerical magnitude processing has been related to individual differences in arithmetic, its role in children's multiplication performance remains largely unknown. On the other hand, studies have indicated that phonological awareness is an important correlate of individual differences in children's multiplication performance, but the involvement of phonological memory, another important phonological processing skill, has not been studied in much detail. Furthermore, knowledge about the relative contribution of above mentioned processes to the specific arithmetic operation of multiplication in children is lacking. The present study therefore investigated for the first time the unique contributions of numerical magnitude comparison and phonological processing in explaining individual differences in 63 fourth graders' multiplication fact ability (mean age = 9.6 years, SD = .67). The results showed that children's multiplication fact competency correlated significantly with symbolic and nonsymbolic magnitude comparison as well as with phonological short-term memory. A hierarchical regression analysis revealed that, after controlling for intellectual ability and general reaction time, both symbolic and nonsymbolic magnitude comparison and phonological short-term memory accounted for unique variance in multiplication fact performance. The ability to compare symbolic magnitudes was found to contribute the most, indicating that the access to numerical magnitudes by means of Arabic digits is a key factor in explaining individual differences in children's multiplication fact ability.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0158335
Number of pages20
JournalPLOS ONE
Volume11
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2016

Keywords

  • WORKING-MEMORY
  • NONWORD REPETITION
  • PROBLEM SIZE
  • CHILDREN
  • MATHEMATICS
  • SKILLS
  • LANGUAGE
  • REPRESENTATIONS
  • ASSOCIATION
  • PREDICTORS

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