OVERLAPPING COGNITIVE PREDICTORS for MATH and WRITING ACHIEVEMENT

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2023-12
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Abstract

Math and writing both rely on a range of specific cognitive skills, including working memory, phonological processing, and fine motor skills. However, the systemic relations of these cognitive predictors across math and writing outcomes and with one another are not well understood. The current study utilizes a path analytic framework to examine potential mechanisms for how these cognitive skills relate to math and writing, including timed versus untimed outcomes. It does so in a large sample of third through fifth graders (n = 677), many of whom are struggling academically. Hypotheses were tested using a path analytic framework which involved the comparison of individual paths and mediational effects. While all predictors and outcomes were significantly related at the zero-order level, only partial support was found for hypotheses about the predictors' differential relationships with achievement. Contrary to expectations, WM did not exhibit a stronger effect on math compared to writing, and for timed outcomes, WM had a stronger effect on writing than math. PA was a stronger predictor for writing compared to math for both timed and untimed outcomes and a stronger predictor for untimed math compared to timed math. Results also revealed that WM fully mediated the relationship between FMS and untimed writing, but only partially mediated the relationship between FMS and other academic outcomes. PA partially mediated the relationship between WM and writing and math skills, both timed and untimed. Results of the current study shed light on transdiagnostic mechanisms for comorbid writing and math difficulties and cognitive mechanisms that drive academic achievement in separate topics. The study underscores the importance of FMS, WM, and PA in writing and math achievement and challenges previous assumptions about these cognitive mechanisms, highlighting their varied impact on timed versus untimed assessments and specific subject areas.

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Keywords
cognitive skills, academic achievement, path analytic framework
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