Pattern understanding is a predictor of early reading and arithmetic skills

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There is increasing interest in the role that pattern understanding may play in the development of arithmetic and reading skills. However, longitudinal studies are rare and typically do not control for other predictors which contribute to development in these domains. This large-scale longitudinal study examined the extent to which pattern understanding is a unique predictor of reading and arithmetic, after controlling for a range of theoretically important skills. We assessed a large sample of 5-year old children (N=569) in the first few months of school on measures of reading, arithmetic, naming speed, number knowledge, counting, non-symbolic magnitude, executive function, oral language, and non-verbal IQ. Children completed alphanumeric and non-alphanumeric pattern understanding tasks six months later. Reading and arithmetic skills were assessed again 12 months after the initial assessment. Latent variable path models showed that pattern understanding predicted significant additional variance in both reading and arithmetic after controlling for a range of other variables. Pattern understanding was in turn predicted by executive function, which indirectly predicted both reading and arithmetic. Thus, we find support for a role of domain general skills (executive function and pattern understanding) as shared predictors of both reading and arithmetic.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEarly Childhood Research Quarterly
Early online date27 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • arithmetic development
  • reading development
  • executive function
  • pattern understanding
  • longitudinal studies


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