Executive function (EF) skills include the ability to maintain attention during a task (“sustained attention”), the ability to resist making an automatic or desired response (“inhibitory control”), the flexibility to consider multiple perspectives (“cognitive flexibility”), and the ability to manipulate information in our “mental workspace” (“working memory”). Research shows that EF skills support problem solving, which in turn plays a critical role in the development of mathematic proficiency. Moreover, both EF and math skills are linked to a wide range of important long-term academic outcomes.
The Math+ project aims to systematically evaluate whether carefully developed mathematics activities contribute to the development of EF and mathematics, and whether these activities affect gains in math and EF differently, depending on children’s initial levels of EF and math skills. The ultimate goal is to develop instructional materials and identify teaching practices that simultaneously promote the development of children’s mathematical thinking and executive function.