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Learning Executive Function and Early Math

Abstract

"Perseverance in mathematics, especially for younger students, is influenced by two areas of competence: (a) self-regulation or executive function--the ability to control, supervise, and regulate one's own thinking and emotions, and (b) mathematics ideas and skills. We review the evidence regarding these two areas. First, we describe executive function and its components. Second, we address the question of whether executive function can be taught in schools. Third, we turn to the relationships between executive function and math achievement. How are they related? Does an increase in one lead to an increase in the other? Fourth, we briefly discuss the role of motivation and compensatory processes. We conclude that developing both executive function and mathematical competencies is essential for young children, especially for those most in need. We suggest that high-quality math education may have the dual benefit of teaching this important content area and developing executive function competencies."

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