Working memory and mathematics in primary school children: A meta-analysis

Ilona Friso-Van Den Bos*, Sanne H.G. Van Der Ven, Evelyn H. Kroesbergen, Johannes E.H. Van Luit

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

399 Citations (Scopus)
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Working memory, including central executive functions (inhibition, shifting and updating) are factors thought to play a central role in mathematical skill development. However, results reported with regard to the associations between mathematics and working memory components are inconsistent. The aim of this meta-analysis is twofold: to investigate the strength of this relation, and to establish whether the variation in the association is caused by tests, sample characteristics and study and other methodological characteristics. Results indicate that all working memory components are associated with mathematical performance, with the highest correlation between mathematics and verbal updating. Variation in the strength of the associations can consistently be explained by the type of mathematics measure used: general tests yield stronger correlations than more specific tests. Furthermore, characteristics of working memory measures, age and sample explain variance in correlations in some analyses. Interpretations of the contribution of moderator variables to various models are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-44
Number of pages16
JournalEducational research review
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Children
  • Executive functions
  • Mathematics
  • Meta-analysis
  • Working memory


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