Publication details [#64245]

Shaul, Shelly and Mila Schwarz. 2018. Towards a better understanding of the link between executive functions, early literacy, and emergent mathematical abilities. Written Language & Literacy 21 (2) : 239–270.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


The aim of the current study was two-fold. It aimed (i) to examine how a multi-component task, as well as more specific executive function (EF) tasks, are related to a wide range of early literacy (phonological awareness, orthographic knowledge, word writing) and emergent mathematical abilities; and (ii) to broaden the understanding of the similar (domain-general) or differential (domain-specific) nature of these relations. The study was conducted in the northern part of Israel. The results indicated that the multi-component task Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders, which taps most EF components (attentional control, inhibition, shifting, and working memory) significantly contributed to most domains of preschool academic development. These included orthographic knowledge and emergent mathematical abilities even after controlling for the role of background cognitive skills. The findings showed that EF tasks have domain-general predictive power for pre-academic abilities that are less automatic and require more effortful processing of information such as word writing at preschool age. Moreover, the results provide clear empirical evidence for the psychometric validity of the multi-component task as a tool that can assess individual differences in EFs for the early identification of children at risk for academic difficulties. This finding can contribute to practitioners searching for an ecologically valid, age-appropriate, and age-sensitive measure of EF abilities as a diagnostic tool.