The role of cognitive processes, foundational math skill, and calculation accuracy and fluency in word-problem solving versus prealgebraic knowledge


The purpose of this study was to examine child-level pathways in development of prealgebraic knowledge versus word-problem solving, while evaluating the contribution of calculation accuracy and fluency as mediators of foundational skills/processes. Children (n = 962; mean 7.60 years) were assessed on general cognitive processes and early calculation, word-problem, and number knowledge at start of Grade 2; calculation accuracy and calculation fluency at end of Grade 2; and prealgebraic knowledge and word-problem solving at end of Grade 4. Important similarities in pathways were identified, but path analysis also indicated that language comprehension is more critical for later word-problem solving than prealgebraic knowledge. We conclude that pathways in development of these forms of 4th-grade mathematics performance are more alike than different, but demonstrate the need to fine-tune instruction for strands of the mathematics curriculum in ways that address individual students' foundational mathematics skills or cognitive processes.



Mathematics development, Algebra, Word problems, Accuracy, Fluency


Copyright 2016 Developmental Psychology. This is a post-print version of a published paper that is available at: Recommended citation: Fuchs, Lynn S., Jennifer K. Gilbert, Sarah R. Powell, Paul T. Cirino, Douglas Fuchs, Carol L. Hamlett, Pamela M. Seethaler, and Tammy D. Tolar. "The Role of Cognitive Processes, Foundational Math Skill, and Calculation Accuracy and Fluency in Word-Problem Solving versus Pre-Algebraic Knowledge." Developmental Psychology 52, no. 12 (2016): 2085-2098. doi: 10.1037/dev0000227. This item has been deposited in accordance with publisher copyright and licensing terms and with the author's permission.