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Fluid reasoning predicts future mathematical performance among children and adolescents.

J Exp Child Psychol. 2017 May;157:125-143

Authors: Green CT, Bunge SA, Briones Chiongbian V, Barrow M, Ferrer E

The aim of this longitudinal study was to determine whether fluid reasoning (FR) plays a significant role in the acquisition of mathematics skills above and beyond the effects of other cognitive and numerical abilities. Using a longitudinal cohort sequential design, we examined how FR measured at three assessment occasions, spaced approximately 1.5years apart, predicted math outcomes for a group of 69 participants between ages 6 and 21years across all three assessment occasions. We used structural equation modeling (SEM) to examine the direct and indirect relations between children’s previous cognitive abilities and their future math achievement. A model including age, FR, vocabulary, and spatial skills accounted for 90% of the variance in future math achievement. In this model, FR was the only significant predictor of future math achievement; age, vocabulary, and spatial skills were not significant predictors. Thus, FR was the only predictor of future math achievement across a wide age range that spanned primary school and secondary school. These findings build on Cattell’s conceptualization of FR as a scaffold for learning, showing that this domain-general ability supports the acquisition of rudimentary math skills as well as the ability to solve more complex mathematical problems.

PMID: 28152390 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]