Developmental Science

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Volume 21 Issue 2 (March 2018), Pages

Neuroanatomical correlates of performance in a state‐wide test of math achievement

Abstract

The development of math skills is a critical component of early education and a strong indicator of later school and economic success. Recent research utilizing population‐normed, standardized measures of math achievement suggest that structural and functional integrity of parietal regions, especially the intraparietal sulcus, are closely related to the development of math skills. However, it is unknown how these findings relate to in‐school math learning. The present study is the first to address this issue by investigating the relationship between regional differences in grey matter (GM) volume and performance in grade‐level mathematics as measured by a state‐wide, school‐based test of math achievement (TCAP math) in children from 3rd to 8th grade. Results show that increased GM volume in the bilateral hippocampal formation and the right inferior frontal gyrus, regions associated with learning and memory, is associated with higher TCAP math scores. Secondary analyses revealed that GM volume in the left angular gyrus had a stronger relationship to TCAP math in grades 3–4 than in grades 5–8 while the relationship between GM volume in the left inferior frontal gyrus and TCAP math was stronger for grades 5–8. These results suggest that the neuroanatomical architecture related to in‐school math achievement differs from that related to math achievement measured by standardized tests, and that the most related neural structures differ as a function of grade level. We suggest, therefore, that the use of school‐relevant outcome measures is critical if neuroscience is to bridge the gap to education.

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