JOURNAL ARTICLE

Relation of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to basic number skills and arithmetic fact retrieval in children

Lars Orbach, Moritz Herzog, Annemarie Fritz
Research in Developmental Disabilities 2020, 103: 103697
32450489
Although research has provided evidence for a clear association of core executive function (CEF) to math performance, fewer studies have been carried out on arithmetic fact retrieval in relation to the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The present study assessed mathematical achievement on a basic number skill test and on an arithmetic fact retrieval task. Besides math achievement, self-ratings of ADHD symptoms (attention deficits, hyperactivity, impulsivity), core executive functions (inhibition, cognitive flexibility, working memory capacity, global index) and state anxiety in 646 fourth and fifth grade students (48.1 % girls) were measured. CEF was evaluated by means of a tablet-based test. Regression analysis showed different predictors for both math abilities. While all CEF measures, inattention and impulsivity self-ratings predicted basic number skills, only inhibition, WMC and inattention self-rating were predictors of arithmetic fact retrieval. On the basis of a cluster analysis of ADHD self-ratings and CEF performance, three different groups were identified: 1: low ADHD, average CEF; 2: high ADHD, low CEF; 3: moderate ADHD, high CEF. Cluster 2 showed scores below the mean in both math scores, whereas cluster 3 exhibited performances above the mean in both math scores. No math differences were found between cluster 1 and 3. The data yield evidence that the association between CEF and math achievement depends on the specific math skill and test type. The results underline the importance of differentiating between CEF components and specific math abilities. Implications for future research on the associations between mathematics, ADHD and CEF are discussed.

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