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Stability and instability in the co-development of mathematics, executive function skills, and visual-motor integration from prekindergarten to first grade

Correlational and short-term longitudinal studies both demonstrate significant associations between children's executive function skills and visual-motor integration and their mathematics achievement in early childhood. Our current understanding of the development of these skills in early childhood is limited, however, by a lack of clarity concerning whether the associations between them are causal in nature or could be explained by other unmeasured stable characteristics shared among the constructs. Using a latent state-trait approach, we examined the development of executive function skills, visual-motor integration, and children's mathematics achievement from the beginning of prekindergarten to the end of first grade (N = 1138). Findings of stability and instability in relative rankings in children's skills across four time points suggest that children's growth in mathematics skills is a product of both persistent unmeasured stable influences and time-specific effects of prior executive function skills and visual-motor integration. Specifically, visual-motor integration related to subsequent mathematics achievement and executive function skills in prekindergarten, and executive function and mathematics achievement were bidirectionally related through first grade, even when accounting for stability in each construct. These results suggest that future experimental research should consider executive function skills and visual-motor integration as well as specific mathematics skills as potential targets for early mathematics instruction. (author abstract)
Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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