The relationship between learning mathematics and general cognitive ability in primary school

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Abstract

Three relationships between learning mathematics and general cognitive ability have been hypothesized: The educational hypothesis that learning mathematics develops general cognitive skills, the psychometric hypothesis that differences in general cognitive ability cause differences in mathematical attainment, and the reciprocal influence hypothesis that developments in mathematical ability and general cognitive ability influence each other. These hypotheses are assessed with a sample of 948 children from the Twins Early Development Study who were assessed at 7, 9, and 10 years on mathematics, English, and general cognitive ability. A cross-lagged path analysis with mathematics and general cognitive ability measures supports the reciprocal influence hypothesis between 7 and 9 and between 9 and 10. A second analysis including English assessments only provides evidence of a reciprocal relationship between 7 and 9.

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