Cognitive and behavioral attention in children with math difficulties


Cognitive assessments and behavioral ratings of attention were used to examine the relation of inattention to math performance in children. Third grade students with math difficulties (MD; n = 17) and math and reading difficulties (MDRD; n = 35) were administered the Attentional Network Test (ANT), as well as achievement and intelligence measures. Strengths and Weaknesses of ADHD-Symptoms and Normal-Behavior-IV (SWAN-IV) Inattention ratings were collected from teachers. Two comparison groups were also recruited: a typically achieving group (n = 23) and a group that responded to a math-tutoring intervention (responders; n = 54). On the ANT, children with MD and MDRD did not perform significantly different than typically achieving children or responders on measures of alerting and orienting attention and executive control. All subgroups did demonstrate performance patterns that were expected on the ANT. However, performance across blocks of the task was inconsistent, suggesting poor reliability. There were no relations between ANT performance and SWAN-IV behavioral inattention scores, though behavioral ratings of inattention correlated significantly with math performance. Children with MD and MDRD may have more difficulty with distraction and attention to detail in contextual situations, as opposed to impulsive responding in these settings. The lack of relation between cognitive attention and math performance may suggest that either the ANT does not assess the relevant attention constructs associated with math difficulties or may parallel studies of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in which cognitive and behavioral assessments are weakly related.



Mathematics difficulties, Cognitive attention, Behavioral attention, Flanker task, Learning disabilities


Copyright 2013 Child Neuropsychology. This is a post-print version of a published paper that is available at: Recommended citation: Gold, Alanna B., Linda Ewing-Cobbs, Paul Cirino, Lynn S. Fuchs, Karla K. Stuebing, and Jack M. Fletcher. "Cognitive and Behavioral Attention in Children With Math Difficulties." Child Neuropsychology 19, no. 4 (2013): 420-437. doi: 10.1080/09297049.2012.690371. This item has been deposited in accordance with publisher copyright and licensing terms and with the author's permission.