Question
Asked 17th Jul, 2013

Can anyone recommend an article showing that executive functioning DOES NOT affect math performance?

I need to show a dissenting view contrasting those like Swanson and Geary who believe that there is an interaction between EF and math performance.

Most recent answer

28th May, 2014
Clarissa Lacson
Grand Canyon University
Thank you for your responses! Yes, all the studies that I have looked up show that EF affect math performance and I have seen this with the children I have tested. Why do you think the findings are many times inconsistent? Iuculano, Moro, and Butterworth (2011): Updating working memory and arithmetical attainment in school found that inhibition affected performance. However, Censabella, S., and Noël, M.P. (2006): The inhibition capacities of children with mathematical disabilities, did not. Iuculano et al (2011) express that it could be due to the way we are measuring the different constructs. EF does affect math performance but when we say "yes" or "no" for the different areas whether central processing of updating and shifting, or phonological processing,we have to qualify how we measured the construct?
Thank you!

All Answers (5)

19th Jul, 2013
James R Schmidt
University of Burgundy
I think, quite to the contrary, it has been shown repeatedly that it does affect math performance. And it's only logical that it would. Do you have reason to think otherwise (and an explanation for past datasets)?
1 Recommendation
30th Sep, 2013
Jose I. Navarro
Universidad de Cádiz
It does affect math performance. Please see attachment. Thank you.

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I am currently wrapping up a chapter on 'Working memory as language aptitude: the Phonological/Executive Model', in which I develop the argument based on previous research that phonological WM (PWM) is a language acquisition device that subserves L2 knowledge of vocabulary, formulaic sequences (formula), and morpho-syntactic constructions; while executive WM is a language processing device that regulates and coordinates attentional resources during L2 comprehension and production activities (esp. online and offline processes during the four sub-skills of L2 listening, speaking, reading, and writing) (more can be seen in Wen, 2015, 2016)..
Meanwhile, I also argue that it is better to implement separate WM span tasks for PWM and EWM, such that, the simple (storage-only) version of memory span tasks (e.g., the digit span, nonword span etc.), while complex (storage plus processing) span tasks (e.g., reading span task, operation span task...) should be used to measure EWM (Wen, 2012 & 2014).
These are old stuff, I am also arguing that future EWM tests should focus on more fine-grained (secondary) mechanisms and executive functions of WM. In this case, following Miyake & Friedman (2012), EWM can be demarcated into information updating, task switching, and inhibitory control. I wonder, if anyone can give me more insights, if we want to adopt well-established tasks to measure each of these executive functions in a second language/bilingualism contexts. In other words, what might be the most well-established tasks? The recent paper by Indrarathne & Kormos (2018) has provided a nice reference and a good example. Still, I wish to check if there are other key references that I can refer to (esp from cognitive psychology or psycholinguistics). For now, I am arguing for adopting the 'Running memory span' task (Bunting et al., 2006) or the 'Keep track task' for measuring updating; Task switching numbers (Linck et al., 2013) or the 'Plus minus task' for measuring task switching; Antisacade or the Stroop task for measuring inhibitory control. How would these sound (advantages and disadvantages?).
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Friends,
The difficulty to form and execute plans of action is diagnostic of large prefrontal lesions. The expectancy of reward activates many neurons, especially in orbital prefrontal cortex. All four major executive functions of the lateral prefrontal cortex (planning, executive attention, working memory, and decision-making) are prospective, “look” to a more or less distant future. The prefrontal cortex is rightfully called the “organ of creativity,” as it is capable of organizing novel actions and speech (it has “memory of the future,” Ingvar 1985). It is also capable of “imagining” what’s to come, and to estimate future risks and benefits. The stock market is moved up or down by the collective prefrontal cortex of countless investors. In sum, here is a brain structure that is literally driven by the future, eminently teleological. Many seem to ignore such an obvious fact. A bit of reflection is here in order, however.
For the self-respecting scientist, teleology is anathema and intolerable absurdity, because it reverses the natural temporal order between cause and effect. That reversal in the prefrontal cortex is only apparent, however, because for that cortex, as for the rest of nature, there is “nothing entirely new under the sun.” Thus, all new planning, all new creation, all new imagination, and all new decisions are based on history and prior experience. All of them are simply re-creations of the past.
Thus the absurdity is gone. But think of how dull, how witless, how plain and how barren would be a world without the prefrontal cortex!
Cheers,
Joaquín
J.M. Fuster and S.L Bressler – Past makes future: Role of pFC in prediction. J. Cogni. Neuroscience, 27: 639-654, 2015.

Related Publications

Article
Full-text available
This article provides a selective review of the literature on executive function development and related topics, focusing on the conceptual and terminological confusions that might hinder communication among researchers in the field. The distinctions between working memory and updating, and between shifting and flexibility, are discussed. Methodolo...
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