Executive Function and Early Mathematical Learning Difficulties

  • Douglas H. ClementsEmail author
  • Julie Sarama


Young children who struggle in learning mathematics need support and personal resources, both cognitive and emotional. For most children, executive function (EF) processes develop most quickly in the early childhood years and provide resources that allow children to control their own thinking and emotions. Both emotional and cognitive EF contribute to social-emotional development and academic learning that are especially important in math curricula that increasingly require higher-order skills such as those provided by EF. Another category of resources that children need includes content or mathematical knowledge, skills, and dispositions. Educators need to use research to provide environments, curricula, and experiences that develop competencies in both these domains, especially for children at risk due to developmental delays or low entering competencies. Focused, high-quality mathematics education may have the dual benefit of teaching an important content area and developing at least some EF competencies.


Math learning difficulties Mathematics education Executive function Self-regulation Intervention Early childhood education Early childhood curricula 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Teaching and Learning SciencesUniversity of DenverDenverUSA

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