The Role of Magnitude Processes and Working Memory for Learning Algebra
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There has been much research into the predictors of early mathematics. In contrast, less information is available about how such predictors inform later skills such as algebra. Algebra is an important “gateway” to higher order mathematics, which is relevant given the increasing demand for workers in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields. The present study investigates the role of both domain general and domain specific skills (including earlier developing math skills) for algebra. We focus on working memory, and magnitude processes (comparison and estimation), and contextualize their impact with fractions performance in 9th graders (n = 90). Fraction number line and fraction competency were found to predict end of year algebra performance as well as change across the 9th grade year in algebra performance. Working memory did not show a significant relationship to algebra performance. This study highlights the role that rational number skills play in the development and growth of later developing math skills.