Robinson - Journal of Educational Psychology 1996 Vol 88 No...

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Journal of Educational Psychology 1996, Vol. 88, No. 2, 341-352 Copyright 1996 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. 0022-0663/96/$3.00 The Structure of Abilities in Math-Precocious Young Children: Gender Similarities and Differences Nancy M. Robinson, Robert D. Abbott, Virginia W. Berninger, and Julie Busse University of Washington For this study of the organization of cognitive abilities and gender differences in young children advanced in mathematical reasoning, parents identified 778 preschoolers and kin- dergartners. After screening with 2 arithmetic subtests of standard intelligence tests, 310 high scorers (55% boys) were given 15 additional measures. Mean performance of these high scorers on all standardized measures was 1 to 2 standard deviations above the mean of the norming samples. Boys scored higher on 8 of 11 quantitative measures, 0 of 3 verbal measures, and 1 of 3 spatial measures, including quantitative and spatial working memory span. Three factors (quantitative, verbal, and spatial) were modeled using confirmatory factor analysis; patterns of relationships were similar for older and younger groups and for girls and boys. Spatial and quantitative factors were highly correlated; the verbal factor correlated weakly with the others but showed a stronger relationship with the spatial factor for boys than girls. The early discovery of talent is the first step toward nurturing and expanding it. Talent in mathematical reason- ing is highly valued and is basic to many career paths, especially those leading to science and technology. Yet few investigators have attempted discovery of mathematical pre- cocity in young children, nor have they examined domain specificity, the relationship of other cognitive abilities to mathematical reasoning, or possible gender differences in this domain in the very young. For older students who reason well mathematically and verbally, annual regional talent searches (Stanley, 1990) now involve around 160,000 seventh graders with academic aptitude measures, namely, Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and American College Test (ACT) scores. A number of studies of gender differences and cognitive abilities related to advanced mathematical reasoning (e.g., Benbow, 1988; Benbow, Stanley, Kirk, & Zonderman, 1983; Casey, Nut- tall, Pezaris, & Benbow, 1995; Dark & Benbow, 1990, 1991; Stanley, 1990) have been conducted with this age group. A few studies of math-advanced elementary school chil- Nancy M. Robinson, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Center for the Study of Capable Youth, University of Washington; Robert D. Abbott, Virginia W. Berninger, and Julie Busse, Department of Educational Psychology, University of Washington. Identifying and Nurturing Early Mathematical Talent was con- ducted at the Halbert B. Robinson Center for the Study of Capable Youth and supported by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, Javits Grant R206A20184. We gratefully acknowledge the consultation of Yukari Okamoto, University of California, Santa Barbara.
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Robinson - Journal of Educational Psychology 1996 Vol 88 No...

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