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

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Publication details

JournalEuropean Journal of Psychology of Education
DateE-pub ahead of print - 1 Jan 2013
DatePublished (current) - Dec 2013
Issue number4
Number of pages16
Pages (from-to)1345-1360
Early online date1/01/13
Original languageEnglish


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.

    Research areas

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

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