Multiple Skills Underlie Arithmetic Performance: A Large-Scale Structural Equation Modeling Analysis

Sarit Ashkenazi, Sarit Silverman

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Current theoretical approaches point to the importance of several cognitive skills not specific to mathematics for the etiology of mathematics disorders (MD). In the current study, we examined the role of many of these skills, specifically: rapid automatized naming, attention, reading, and visual perception, on mathematics performance among a large group of college students (N = 1,322) with a wide range of arithmetic proficiency. Using factor analysis, we discovered that our data clustered to four latent variables 1) mathematics, 2) perception speed, 3) attention and 4) reading. In subsequent structural equation modeling, we found that the latent variable perception speed had a strong and meaningful effect on mathematics performance. Moreover, sustained attention, independent from the effect of the latent variable perception speed, had a meaningful, direct effect on arithmetic fact retrieval and procedural knowledge. The latent variable reading had a modest effect on mathematics performance. Specifically, reading comprehension, independent from the effect of the latent variable reading, had a meaningful direct effect on mathematics, and particularly on number line knowledge. Attention, tested by the attention network test, had no effect on mathematics, reading or perception speed. These results indicate that multiple factors can affect mathematics performance supporting a heterogeneous approach to mathematics. These results have meaningful implications for the diagnosis and intervention of pure and comorbid learning disorders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)496-515
JournalJournal of Numerical Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017

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  • perception speed, mathematics performance, pure and comorbid mathematics disability


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