Examining the mutual relations between language and mathematics: A meta-analysis

Peng Peng, Xin Lin, Zehra Emine Ünal, Kejin Lee, Jessica Namkung, Jason Chow, Adam Sales

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study presents a meta-analysis of the relation between language and mathematics. A moderate relation between language and mathematics was found in 344 studies with 393 independent samples and more than 360,000 participants, r =.42, 95% CI [.40,.44]. Moderation and partial correlation analyses revealed the following: (a) more complicated language and mathematics skills were associated with stronger relations between language and mathematics; after partialing out working memory and intelligence, rapid automatized naming showed the strongest relation to numerical knowledge; (b) the relation between language and mathematics was stronger among native language speakers than among secondlanguage learners, but this difference was not found after partialing out working memory and intelligence; (c) working memory and intelligence together explained over 50% of the variance in the relation between language and mathematics and explained more variance in such relations involving complex mathematics skills; (d) language and mathematics predicted the development of one another even after controlling for initial performance. These findings suggest that we may use language as a medium to communicate, represent, and retrieve mathematics knowledge as well as to facilitate working memory and reasoning during mathematics performance and learning. With development, the use of language to retrieve mathematics knowledge may be more important for foundational mathematics skills, which in turn further strengthens linguistic thought processes for performing more advanced mathematics tasks. Such use of language may boost the mutual effects of cognition and mathematics across development. We use language as a medium to communicate, represent, and retrieve mathematics knowledge, as when we learn mathematics vocabulary, follow classroom instruction, and understand mathematics texts. Meanwhile, we also use language to facilitate the processes of memory and reasoning during mathematics performance and learning. With development, the use of language to retrieve mathematics knowledge may become more important for foundational mathematics skills, which frees up cognitive resources for more advanced mathematics performance; such use of language may boost the mutual effects between cognition and mathematics during development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)595-634
Number of pages40
JournalPsychological Bulletin
Volume146
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2020

Keywords

  • Development
  • Language
  • Mathematics
  • Medium
  • Mutualism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Examining the mutual relations between language and mathematics: A meta-analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this