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[en] Executive functions (EFs) are key skills underlying other cognitive skills that are relevant to learning and everyday life. Although a plethora of evidence suggests a positive relation between the three EF subdimensions inhibition, shifting, and updating, and math skills for schoolchildren and adults, the findings on the magnitude of and possible variations in this relation are inconclusive for preschool children and several narrow math skills (i.e., math intelligence). Therefore, the present meta-analysis aimed to (a) synthesize the relation between EFs and math intelligence (an aggregate of math skills) in preschool children; (b) examine which study, sample, and measurement characteristics moderate this relation; and (c) test the joint effects of EFs on math intelligence. Utilizing data extracted from 47 studies (363 effect sizes, 30,481 participants) from 2000 to 2021, we found that, overall, EFs are significantly related to math intelligence (r = .34, 95% CI [.31, .37]), as are inhibition (r = .30, 95% CI [.25, .35]), shifting (r = .32, 95% CI [.25, .38]), and updating (r = .36, 95% CI [.31, .40]). Key measurement characteristics of EFs, but neither children’s age nor gender, moderated this relation. These findings suggest a positive link between EFs and math intelligence in preschool children and emphasize the importance of measurement characteristics. We further examined the joint relations between EFs and math intelligence via meta-analytic structural equation modeling. Evaluating different models and representations of EFs, we did not find support for the expectation that the three EF subdimensions are differentially related to math intelligence.
Research center :
- Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Luxembourg Centre for Educational Testing (LUCET)