Event Title

Foreign Language and Mathematical Ability Predict Cognitive Performance

Poster Number

133

Session Title

Education and Teachers

Document Type

Poster Presentation

Faculty Mentor

Merry Sleigh, Ph.D.

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Department of Psychology

Description

The present study examined logical reasoning and lexical ability of college students in light of their foreign language and mathematical skill levels. Factors chosen to compare were foreign language proficiency with math proficiency, based on pre-existing research which shows that improved mathematical ability predicts enhanced working memory and increased processing speed, as well as better logical reasoning ability. It was also desired for the present study to examine students’ beliefs about how their math and language experiences impacted their performance. The participants were 100 adults with a mean age of 21.21 (SD = 6.21). The majority were Caucasian (70%) and women (75%). Participants were asked to solve a logic puzzle and a lexical (word) puzzle in a restricted time period. They then responded to items to assess their proficiency in both foreign language and mathematics, cognitive flexibility, and resilience. The predictions were partially supported. Math ability predicted better performance on the logic and lexical puzzle, while foreign language proficiency predicted better performance on the lexical puzzle only. Ironically, participants believed that their foreign language ability was influential in facilitating their puzzle performance, but did not perceive their math ability as being helpful. Perhaps the minimization of math’s usefulness reflects college students’ frequently documented math-anxiety. Cognitive flexibility, resilience, race, and gender did not predict performance on the puzzles. In other words, cognitive performance was linked more closely to experience with math and foreign language than any of these other variables, supporting their educational value.

Previously Presented/Performed?

Southeastern Psychological Association (SEPA) Annual Meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana, April 2020; Sixth Annual Showcase of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors (SOURCE), Winthrop University, April 2020

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Apr 24th, 12:00 AM

Foreign Language and Mathematical Ability Predict Cognitive Performance

The present study examined logical reasoning and lexical ability of college students in light of their foreign language and mathematical skill levels. Factors chosen to compare were foreign language proficiency with math proficiency, based on pre-existing research which shows that improved mathematical ability predicts enhanced working memory and increased processing speed, as well as better logical reasoning ability. It was also desired for the present study to examine students’ beliefs about how their math and language experiences impacted their performance. The participants were 100 adults with a mean age of 21.21 (SD = 6.21). The majority were Caucasian (70%) and women (75%). Participants were asked to solve a logic puzzle and a lexical (word) puzzle in a restricted time period. They then responded to items to assess their proficiency in both foreign language and mathematics, cognitive flexibility, and resilience. The predictions were partially supported. Math ability predicted better performance on the logic and lexical puzzle, while foreign language proficiency predicted better performance on the lexical puzzle only. Ironically, participants believed that their foreign language ability was influential in facilitating their puzzle performance, but did not perceive their math ability as being helpful. Perhaps the minimization of math’s usefulness reflects college students’ frequently documented math-anxiety. Cognitive flexibility, resilience, race, and gender did not predict performance on the puzzles. In other words, cognitive performance was linked more closely to experience with math and foreign language than any of these other variables, supporting their educational value.