A MODEL FOR THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONS, MATH ANXIETY, AND PARENTAL EXPECTATIONS TOWARD MATH ACHIEVEMENT
Elias, John T.
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Understanding the factors influencing math achievement may serve to guide future instruction and intervention techniques, though integrating factors across neuropsychological, affective, and environmental domains in studies has been rare. This study examined relationships among math achievement and three factors shown to be related to math in the literature: executive functions (EF) (e.g., Fuchs et al., 2009), math anxiety (e.g., Ashcraft & Kirk, 2001), and parental expectations of math achievement (e.g., Davis-Kean, 2005). While these three factors have been shown to contribute to math achievement individually, no previous study has attempted to comprehensively examine all three factors’ contribution collectively. A model is proposed which hypothesizes that while all three factors predict math outcome, of the three factors, EF contributes the greatest unique variance, math anxiety’s effect on math is moderated by EF and parental expectations, and math anxiety’s effect on math is moderated by parental expectations. Results show that the proposed model accounted for strong variance in math outcomes (R2 = .42), and the main effect of EF was the largest main effect contributor as hypothesized. Math anxiety was only associated with math when EF was removed from the model, and higher parental expectations were associated with lower math anxiety. None of the hypothesized interactions were significant. Taken together, the results suggest that other factors outside of the neuropsychological domain are influential, but comparatively, EF is a much stronger predictor of math achievement. Therefore, future research and development of interventions that focus on providing strategies and scaffolding for children with low EF may offer the greatest payoff.