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 the development of prealgebraic knowledge versus word-problem solving, evaluating the contribution of calculation accuracy and fluency as mediators of foundational skills/processes. Children (n = 962; M = 7.60 years) were assessed on general cognitive processes and early calculation, word-problem, and number knowledge at the start of grade 2; calculation accuracy and calculation fluency at the end of grade 2; and prealgebraic knowledge and word-problem solving at the 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 it is for prealgebraic knowledge. The authors conclude that pathways in the development of these forms of 4th-grade mathematics performance are more alike than they are 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.


Fuchs, L. S., Gilbert, J. K., Powell, S. R., Cirino, P. T., Fuchs, D., Hamlett, C. L., . . . Tolar, T. D. (2016). The role of cognitive processes, foundational math skill, and calculation accuracy and fluency in word-problem solving versus prealgebraic knowledge. Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication. doi:10.1037/dev0000227