Event Title

Can High Working Memory Improve Math Learning and Help Close the Achievement Gap?

Location

Auditorium Hallway

Department

Psychology

Abstract

U.S. elementary students have poor understanding of the equal sign. This study examined the roles of children’s working memory capacity (WMC) and socioeconomic status (SES) in children’s learning from a lesson on mathematical equivalence. Second to fifth graders (N = 172, Mean Age = 9 years, 2 months) completed a pretest-instruction-posttest study via Zoom. Children’s mathematical equivalence understanding was measured before and after instruction. We also measured WMC and children’s SES (using a composite score of school free lunch and parent education). Children’s WMC and SES were positive predictors of mathematical equivalence understanding prior to instruction. However, only WMC predicted children’s learning from instruction. Importantly, WMC and SES did not correlate, nor did they interact to predict learning. These findings suggest that WMC is a more critical factor for math learning than SES. These results further highlight that cognitive resources, not environmental resources, are what is critical for math learning.

Faculty Sponsor

Ruth Church, Northeastern Illinois University

Faculty Sponsor

Andrew Young, Northeastern Illinois University

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May 6th, 12:00 PM

Can High Working Memory Improve Math Learning and Help Close the Achievement Gap?

Auditorium Hallway

U.S. elementary students have poor understanding of the equal sign. This study examined the roles of children’s working memory capacity (WMC) and socioeconomic status (SES) in children’s learning from a lesson on mathematical equivalence. Second to fifth graders (N = 172, Mean Age = 9 years, 2 months) completed a pretest-instruction-posttest study via Zoom. Children’s mathematical equivalence understanding was measured before and after instruction. We also measured WMC and children’s SES (using a composite score of school free lunch and parent education). Children’s WMC and SES were positive predictors of mathematical equivalence understanding prior to instruction. However, only WMC predicted children’s learning from instruction. Importantly, WMC and SES did not correlate, nor did they interact to predict learning. These findings suggest that WMC is a more critical factor for math learning than SES. These results further highlight that cognitive resources, not environmental resources, are what is critical for math learning.