Developmental Gains in Visuospatial Memory Predict Gains in Mathematics Achievement
Yaoran Li and David C Geary; 2013
Visuospatial competencies are related to performance in mathematical domains in adulthood, but are not consistently related to mathematics achievement in children. We confirmed the latter for first graders and demonstrated that children who show above average first-to-fifth grade gains in visuospatial memory have an advantage over other children in mathematics. The study involved the assessment of the mathematics and reading achievement of 177 children in kindergarten to fifth grade, inclusive, and their working memory capacity and processing speed in first and fifth grade. Intelligence was assessed in first grade and their second to fourth grade teachers reported on their in-class attentive behavior. Developmental gains in visuospatial memory span (d = 2.4) were larger than gains in the capacity of the central executive (d = 1.6) that in turn were larger than gains in phonological memory span (d = 1.1). First to fifth grade gains in visuospatial memory and in speed of numeral processing predicted end of fifth grade mathematics achievement, as did first grade central executive scores, intelligence, and in-class attentive behavior. The results suggest there are important individual differences in the rate of growth of visuospatial memory during childhood and that these differences become increasingly important for mathematics learning.