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Fine motor skills predict maths ability better than they predict reading ability in the early primary school years

Pitchford, Nicola J.; Papini, Chiara; Outhwaite, Laura A.; Gulliford, Anthea

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Professor of Developmental Psychology

Chiara Papini

Laura A. Outhwaite

Anthea Gulliford


Fine motor skills have long been recognised as an important foundation for development in other domains. However, more precise insights into the role of fine motor skills, and their relationships to other skills in mediating early educational achievements, are needed to support the development of optimal educational interventions. We explored concurrent relationships between two components of fine motor skills, Fine Motor Precision and Fine Motor Integration, and early reading and maths development in two studies with primary school children of low-to-mid socio-economic status in the U.K. Two key findings were revealed. First, despite being in the first two years of primary school education, significantly better performance was found in reading compared to maths across both studies. This may reflect the protective effects of recent national-level interventions to promote early literacy skills in young children in the U.K. that have not been similarly promoted for maths. Second, fine motor skills were a better predictor of early maths ability than they were of early reading ability. Hierarchical multiple regression revealed that fine motor skills did not significantly predict reading ability when verbal short-term memory was taken into account. In contrast, Fine Motor Integration remained a significant predictor of maths ability, even after the influence of nonverbal IQ had been accounted for. These results suggest that fine motor skills should have a pivotal role in educational interventions designed to support the development of early mathematical skills.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 9, 2016
Online Publication Date May 9, 2016
Publication Date May 30, 2016
Deposit Date May 25, 2016
Publicly Available Date Nov 29, 2018
Journal Frontiers in Psychology
Electronic ISSN 1664-1078
Publisher Frontiers Media
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Issue MAY
Article Number 783
Keywords Fine motor skills; literacy; Maths; executive functions; socio-economic status; early years education
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