A recent meta-analysis was published that investigated the association between phonological processing skills and mathematics in children. A total of 94 studies (135 unique samples, 826 effect sizes) was examined in the study. To be included for analysis, studies had to focus on participants in kindergarten or primary school. Effect sizes, Pearson’s correlation, were collected between the phonological processing measures and the mathematics outcomes, as well as children’s characteristics (e.g., age, grade). Phonological processing refers to the use of the sound structure of language to manage written and oral information and consists of three components, namely, phonological awareness (PA), rapid automatized naming (RAN), and phonological memory (PM). Phonological awareness refers to awareness of the sound structure of language. RAN signifies the rate of access to phonological information in long-term memory, and it is usually measured by how fast an individual can name symbol stimuli (e.g., colors, letters, digits). In contrast, PM comprises short-term phonological storage and a rehearsal process that maintains decaying information. It is usually accessed by the number of stimuli to be recalled within a string of words, letters, or digits. Results of the meta-analysis are shown below.
- In general, the relation between phonological processing and mathematics (ρ = +0.33) was significant.
- For subgroups, significant relations were also found among kindergarteners (K1-K3, ρ =+0.36), junior primary school children (G1-G3, ρ =+0.32), and senior primary school students (G4-G6, ρ =+0.29).
- PA (ρ = +0.38) and RAN (ρ = +0.35) showed stronger correlation with mathematics skills than PM (ρ =+0.28) did.
- Mean age was a significant moderator: younger children demonstrated a stronger relation between phonological processing skills and mathematics.
- Moreover, the association of RAN with mathematics was significantly stronger among kindergarteners (K1-K3) than senior primary school students (G4-G6).
- PA and PM showed a stronger association with mathematics accuracy than with mathematics fluency, whereas RAN was more strongly related to mathematics fluency than to mathematics accuracy.
After controlling for vocabulary knowledge, executive functioning, and nonverbal intelligence, results of meta-structural equation modelling analysis showed the unique contribution of phonological processing to various mathematics skills: number knowledge (r = +0.50), calculation (r = +0.35), mathematic accuracy (r = +0.20), mathematics fluency (r = +0.54).
The findings suggest that early PA and RAN abilities may be a good indicator of mathematics performance. Early training in recognition and manipulation of speech sounds as well as phonological access to symbols may facilitate early mathematics learning.
Source: Yang, X., Yan, M., Ruan, Y., Ku, S. Y. Y., Lo, J. C. M., Peng, P., & McBride, C. (2021). Relations among phonological processing skills and mathematics in children: A meta-analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1037/edu0000710