Executive Functions and Self-Regulated Learning as Predictors of Math Achievement: A Path Analytic Framework

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Despite considerable evidence for the hierarchical nature of math learning and the influence of executive functions in early math development, few studies have investigated the role of executive functions and related skills (i.e. self-regulated learning skills) in later elementary years. The goal of the present study was to comprehensively evaluate the role of executive functions and self-regulated learning skills as predictors of mathematical outcomes, proposing ways in which these predictive relationships may differ across elementary grades 3 through 5. Directly examining the hierarchy of math learning, this study utilized a path analytic framework to assess the likely mediating role of early math skill mastery (e.g. fact fluency) and the hypothesized moderating effect of grade. Both direct and indirect effects were assessed in a large and diverse sample of students (N = 846) in third grade (N = 186), fourth grade (N = 484), and fifth grade (N = 176). While the moderating effect of grade was not significant, the final model showed good fit (χ2 = 313.48, df = 256; CFI = 0.97; RMSEA = 0.028, 90% CI = 0.015 to 0.038; SRMR = 0.074) and demonstrated predictive power for several considered variables. Additionally, a strong mediating role of math fact fluency was observed. The results underscore the robust influence of executive functions and metacognition on math outcomes across grade level, thus supporting efforts to integrate findings across bodies of literature.

Mathematics achievement, Executive functions, Self-regulated learning, Path analysis