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Publication Detail
The Relationship between Working Memory and Arithmetic in Primary School Children: A Meta-Analysis
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Authors:
    Zhang Y, Tolmie A, Gordon R
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  • Publication date:
  • Journal:
    Brain Sciences
  • Volume:
  • Issue:
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  • Keywords:
    working memory, arithmetic, working memory domain, operation type, mental arithmetic, written arithmetic, meta-analysis, visuospatial working memory, verbal working memory
  • Notes:
    Copyright: © 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https:// creativecommons.org/licenses/by/ 4.0/).
Working memory (WM) plays a crucial role in the development of arithmetic ability. However, research findings related to which factors influence the relationship between WM and arithmetic skills are inconsistent. The present meta-analysis aimed to examine the links between WM and arithmetic in primary school children and investigate whether this is dependent on WM domains (i.e., verbal, visual, spatial), child age, arithmetic operation type, and arithmetic task type. A total of 11,224 participants with an age range of 6- to 12 years, from 55 independent samples were included in the meta-analysis. Analysis of 46 studies with 187 effect sizes revealed an overall significant and medium correlation between WM and arithmetic. Heterogeneity analyses indicated that verbal WM showed a stronger correlation with arithmetic than visuospatial WM, and that correlations between verbal WM and arithmetic declined with age, whereas correlations between spatial-sequential, and spatial-simultaneous WM and arithmetic remained stable throughout development. Addition and subtraction were more involved in verbal WM than multiplication and division. Moreover, mental and written arithmetic showed comparable correlations with WM in all domains. These findings suggest moderation effects of WM domains, age, and operation types in the WM-arithmetic relationship and highlight the significant role of verbal WM in arithmetic ability in primary school children.
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