Numerical skills are a major cognitive foundation of mathematical learning, especially in young children. The role of domain-general factors in explaining individual differences in numerical skills is largely unknown. The current study aims to shed light on the different roles of multiple domain-general abilities, including spatial abilities, visuospatial working memory, executive functions, attention, and fine motor ability in the development of numerical skills. Using an extensive sample of children (n = 339) of varying ages (between 3 and 8 years-old), we examined the influence of domain-general factors on numerical skills (symbolic and non-symbolic). We used factor analysis to cluster tasks into latent variables to analyze the data. Based on the results, we used Structural Equation Modeling with numerical abilities as the outcome variable. Spatial skills directly and strongly affected numerical skills, and executive functions also affected numerical skills. Executive functions made a unique contribution to symbolic numerical skills, dissociating symbolic and non-symbolic numerical skills. These results indicate that multiple factors can affect numerical performance. This conclusion bears significant implications for the early diagnosis of learning disorders and intervention methods for these disorders.
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- Domain-general factors
- Individual differences
- Numerical skills