Parents often find themselves navigating the complexities of their children’s educational journey, seeking answers to questions that seem to multiply with each passing day. Are their kids developing at the right pace? Will their kids excel in school? These concerns are not unfounded, as recent research sheds light on the impact of first-grade performance on a child’s future educational outcomes.

A study published in the Journal of Early Childhood Research delved into various dimensions of first-grade behaviour, ranging from approaches to learning and interpersonal skills to externalising and internalising problem behaviours. Surprisingly, it was found that a child’s eagerness to learn, attentiveness, and organisational skills – collectively known as approaches to learning – are regarded as the most influential factors in predicting later achievements in mathematics and reading. Apart from this, Executive Function, which covers skills like working memory, inhibition, and cognitive flexibility, also emerged as a crucial element in the relationship between early mathematics proficiency and later academic achievement.

One of the researchers involved, Dr Bodovski, emphasised the importance of student engagement, noting that as long as children remain focused and interested in their tasks, minor disruptions become less crucial. This finding emphasizes the critical role of a positive attitude toward learning from the beginning of a child’s educational journey. Executive Function not only acts as a predictor or moderator but also plays a crucial mediating role in the relationship between early mathematics proficiency and later academic success.


Evidence suggests bidirectional associations between mathematics and EF, with mathematics skills predicting EF development and vice versa. For example, as children gain proficiency in mathematics, they are likely to experience gains in executive function and literacy skills as well. The cognitive challenges inherent in mathematical tasks provide opportunities for children to develop further and strengthen their executive function skills.



Early mathematics proficiency may predict higher levels of executive function, contributing to enhanced mathematics and reading achievement in later years. Moreover, children with more vital foundational skills in mathematics and reading tended to exhibit more positive learning behaviours, such as attentiveness and organisation. Investing in early academic proficiency can pave the way for better engagement and success in later years of schooling. While much attention has been devoted to literacy development in early education, the study also emphasises the need to focus on mathematical development.



Early interventions and evidence-based curricula have shown promising results in improving numeracy and math skills, highlighting the potential for schools to positively influence children’s mathematical proficiency.

Furthermore, the research highlighted the disparities in school readiness among different socioeconomic groups. While socioeconomic status often correlates with initial school readiness, the study found that boosting school readiness could significantly benefit low-income and minority students, narrowing the achievement gap.


In conclusion, the findings focus on the interconnectedness of various factors – from academic skills to approaches to learning and executive function – in shaping a child’s educational journey. By recognising the pivotal role of first-grade performance and investing in early interventions, we can empower children to reach their full potential and pave the way for a brighter future.

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