Cognitive components of a mathematical processing network in 9-year-old children

Denes Szucs, Amy Devine, Fruzsina Soltesz, Alison Nobes, Florence Gabriel

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    122 Citations (Scopus)


    We determined how various cognitive abilities, including several measures of a proposed domain-specific number sense, relate to mathematical competence in nearly 100 9-year-old children with normal reading skill. Results are consistent with an extended number processing network and suggest that important processing nodes of this network are phonological processing, verbal knowledge, visuo-spatial short-term and working memory, spatial ability and general executive functioning. The model was highly specific to predicting arithmetic performance. There were no strong relations between mathematical achievement and verbal short-term and working memory, sustained attention, response inhibition, finger knowledge and symbolic number comparison performance. Non-verbal intelligence measures were also non-significant predictors when added to our model. Number sense variables were non-significant predictors in the model and they were also non-significant predictors when entered into regression analysis with only a single visuo-spatial WM measure. Number sense variables were predicted by sustained attention. Results support a network theory of mathematical competence in primary school children and falsify the importance of a proposed modular 'number sense'. We suggest an 'executive memory function centric' model of mathematical processing. Mapping a complex processing network requires that studies consider the complex predictor space of mathematics rather than just focusing on a single or a few explanatory factors.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)506-524
    Number of pages19
    JournalDevelopmental Science
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014


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