Mathematical achievement at age nine years of children born very preterm
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Children born very preterm (VPT) are known to be at high risk of under-achievement in mathematics. However the nature of these difficulties is poorly understood. In this study, a regionally representative cohort of 102 children born VPT and a comparison group of 108 children born full term (FT) during 1998-2000 were followed from birth to nine years. At age nine, children were tested using the Woodcock-Johnson III maths fluency subtest, and teacher reports of mathematical achievement and curriculum-based (numeracy project) achievement data were collected. The data was analysed using group comparisons and multiple regression. Parent and teacher ratings of executive function at age six were included as predictors. Findings indicated that children born VPT had elevated rates of mathematical difficulties across all measures including the standardised and curriculum-based measures, and teacher ratings. They also had higher rates of mathematical learning disability. With the exception of curriculum-based measures, these results remained significant even after controlling for socioeconomic status and severe neurodevelopmental impairment. Children born VPT showed particular difficulty using operational strategies, rather than with factual knowledge, and this effect was most marked for addition and multiplication. As well as difficulties in mathematics, children born VPT also showed more difficulty than children born FT in almost all areas of executive function. Difficulties with working memory at age six were significantly associated with poor performance in aspects of curriculum-based measures at age nine.