Cognitive skills used to solve mathematical word problems and numerical operations: a study of 6-7 year old children

Isabel Maria Bjork, Claudine Bowyer-Crane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study investigates the relationship between skills that underpin mathematical word problems and those that underpin numerical operations, such as addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. Sixty children aged 6–7 years were tested on measures of mathematical ability, reading accuracy, reading comprehension, verbal intelligence and phonological awareness, using a mix of standardised and experimenter-designed tests. The experimental hypothesis was that mathematical word problems will call upon cognitive skills that are different and additional to those required by numerical operations, in particular verbal ability and reading comprehension, while phonological awareness and reading accuracy will be associated with both types of mathematical problems. The hypothesis is partly affirmed and partly rejected. Reading comprehension was found to predict performance on mathematical word problems and not numerical operations, and phonological awareness was found to predict performance on both types of mathematics. However, the predictive value of verbal ability and reading accuracy was found to be non-significant.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1345-1360
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychology of Education
Issue number4
Early online date1 Jan 2013
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


  • Mathematical word problems
  • Numerical operations
  • Reading accuracy
  • Reading comprehension
  • Phonological awareness

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