Mathematics Skills and Executive Functions Following Preterm Birth: A Longitudinal Study of 5- to 7-Year Old Children

AbstractMathematics skills are an important predictor of later academic, economic and personal success. Children born preterm have an increased risk of deficits in mathematics, that may be related to lower levels of executive functions. We investigated the development of mathematics skills, working memory, inhibitory control and processing speed of healthy children born very preterm (25-32 weeks gestational age, n=51) and full-term (n=29). Children were tested from ages 5-7 years. We found persistent lower overall mathematics skills in the preterm group, driven by differences in more informal skills (e.g. counting) at earlier time points, and by differences in more formal skills (e.g. calculation) at later time points. We did not find significant group differences in spatial working memory capacity or processing speed. However, these cognitive measures were significant predictors of mathematics skills in the preterm but not the full-term group, hinting towards the use of different strategies when solving problems.

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