Garon-Carrier G, Boivin M, Lemelin J-P, Kovas Y, Parent S, Séguin J, Vitaro F, Tremblay RE, Dionne G. (2018). Early developmental trajectories of number knowledge and math achievement from 4 to 10 years: Low-persistent profile and early-life predictors. Journal of School Psychology. 68: 84-98.
Little is known about the development of number knowledge (NK) and the antecedents of lowpersistent NK profiles in early childhood. We documented the developmental trajectories of NK across the transition from preschool to elementary school, their predictive validity with respect to later math achievement, and the child and family early-life factors associated with low NK profiles. Children’s NK was assessed four times at regular intervals between the ages 4 and 7 years in a large, representative population-based sample. Developmental trajectories of NK were established for 1597 children. These children were also assessed with respect to several features of their family environment at 5, 17, and 29 months, as well as their cognitive skills at age 41 months. Analyses revealed a best-fitting 4-trajectory model, characterized by Low-Increasing (10% of the children), Moderate-Increasing (39%), Moderate-Fast Increasing (32%) and HighIncreasing (19%) groups. Children of these trajectory groups differed significantly with respect to math achievement at ages 8 and 10 years, with the Low-Increasing group persistently scoring lower than the other groups throughout these years. Children of Low-Increasing NK group were from household of lower income and father with low educational background, poorer early cognitive development, and more importantly, reduced visual-spatial skills and memory-span. Children displaying reduced cognitive abilities and impoverished living conditions early in life are at greater risk of low NK throughout late preschool and school entry, with ensuing difficulties in math achievement. They deserve early preventive attention to help alleviate later mathematic difficulties.