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Durham University

School of Education

Staff Profile

Publication details for Prof Steve Higgins

Allen, K., Giofrè, D., Higgins, S. & Adams, J. (2020). Working Memory Predictors of Written Mathematics in 7-8 Year Old Children. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 73(2): 239-248.

Author(s) from Durham


There is extensive evidence for the involvement of working memory in mathematical attainment. This study aims to identify the relative contributions of verbal, spatial-simultaneous, and spatial-sequential working memory measures in written mathematics. Year 3 children (7–8 years of age, n = 214) in the United Kingdom were administered a battery of working memory tasks alongside a standardised test of mathematics. Confirmatory factor analyses and variance partitioning were then performed on the data to identify the unique variance accounted for by verbal, spatial-simultaneous, and spatial-sequential measures. Results revealed the largest individual contribution was that of verbal working memory, followed by spatial-simultaneous factors. This suggests the components of working memory underpinning mathematical performance at this age are those concerning verbal-numeric and spatial-simultaneous working memory. Implications for educators and further research are discussed.