Frontiers in Psychology (Oct 2021)

Cross- and Within-Domain Associations of Early Reading and Mathematical Skills: Changes Across the Preschool Years

  • Fu Yu Kwok,
  • Rebecca Bull,
  • David Muñez

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12


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Existing research has mainly examined the role of cognitive correlates of early reading and mathematics from a stationary perspective that does not consider how these skills unfold and interact over time. This approach constraints the interpretation of cross-domain associations and the specificity of domain-specific covariates. In this study, we disentangle the role of these predictors and investigate cross-domain associations between reading, math, and two related domain-specific predictors (phonological awareness and fluency with number sets) over the kindergarten years (n=512, Mage=54months, SDage=3.5, 52% females). Results reveal that the overlap between reading and math skills changes over development. Reciprocal associations between reading and math abilities are observed at earlier stages; then, reading abilities become the lead force. Findings also show that phonological awareness and fluency with number sets are domain-specific predictors that do not contribute to cross-domain gains in academic skills. Indeed, there is a trend for domain-specific skills to be more strongly related to achievement at the beginning of formal education than at the beginning of kindergarten, which suggests an increasing differentiation of domains over the kindergarten years. Such findings have implications for the timing and nature of interventions that aim to support children’s reading and mathematical development.