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Mathematical Skills in 3- and 5-Year-Olds with Spina Bifida and Their Typically Developing Peers: A Longitudinal Approach

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 March 2011

Marcia A. Barnes*
Department of Pediatrics, University of Texas Health Science Center-Houston, Houston, Texas
Allison Stubbs
Department of Psychology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario
Kimberly P. Raghubar
Department of Psychology, University of Houston, Houston, Texas
Alba Agostino
Department of Psychology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario
Heather Taylor
Department of Pediatrics, University of Texas Health Science Center-Houston, Houston, Texas
Susan Landry
Department of Pediatrics, University of Texas Health Science Center-Houston, Houston, Texas
Jack M. Fletcher
Department of Psychology, University of Houston, Houston, Texas
Brenda Smith-Chant
Department of Psychology, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario
Correspondence and reprint requests to: Marcia A. Barnes, University of Texas Health Science Center-Houston, 7000 Fannin Street, Suite 2400, Houston, Texas 77030. E-mail:


Preschoolers with spina bifida (SB) were compared to typically developing (TD) children on tasks tapping mathematical knowledge at 36 months (n = 102) and 60 months of age (n = 98). The group with SB had difficulty compared to TD peers on all mathematical tasks except for transformation on quantities in the subitizable range. At 36 months, vocabulary knowledge, visual–spatial, and fine motor abilities predicted achievement on a measure of informal math knowledge in both groups. At 60 months of age, phonological awareness, visual–spatial ability, and fine motor skill were uniquely and differentially related to counting knowledge, oral counting, object-based arithmetic skills, and quantitative concepts. Importantly, the patterns of association between these predictors and mathematical performance were similar across the groups. A novel finding is that fine motor skill uniquely predicted object-based arithmetic abilities in both groups, suggesting developmental continuity in the neurocognitive correlates of early object-based and later symbolic arithmetic problem solving. Models combining 36-month mathematical ability and these language-based, visual–spatial, and fine motor abilities at 60 months accounted for considerable variance on 60-month informal mathematical outcomes. Results are discussed with reference to models of mathematical development and early identification of risk in preschoolers with neurodevelopmental disorder. (JINS, 2011, 17, 431–444)

Research Articles
Copyright © The International Neuropsychological Society 2011

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