Metacognition The ability to use numbers and solve mathematical problems is an important life skill for everyday tasks like managing a budget, understanding travel timetables, and following a recipe. Poor numerical ability in childhood is associated with lower employability prospects, lower salary potential in adulthood, and increased criminality in youths. The authors wanted to understand […]23 Nov 2023
Investigating the Association Between Metacognition and Math Performance in Adolescence
October 25, 2023
The ability to use numbers and solve mathematical problems is an important life skill for everyday tasks like managing a budget, understanding travel timetables, and following a recipe. Poor numerical ability in childhood is associated with lower employability prospects, lower salary potential in adulthood, and increased criminality in youths. The authors wanted to understand the connection between achievement in math and metacognitive ability because of its impact across an individual’s life span.
Does Metacognition Impact Math Ability?
Metacognition refers to an individual’s self-regulation of their own learning, for example, knowing their strengths, challenge areas, and strategies that work best for them. Metacognition measures are categorized as offline measures (use of questionnaires that aim to capture an individual’s self-reported perception of their own metacognitive ability based on their previous learning experiences) and online measures (metacognitive ability is captured by ongoing behavior and performance as they complete a task such as a think-aloud protocol). Some research has reported poor correspondence between offline and online metacognitive measures, which suggests they may each be measuring different components of metacognition.
Mathematical ability has been proposed to be made up of both numerical ability i.e. basic number representation, simple arithmetic, and operations, and mathematical problem-solving. Several studies have reported an association between metacognition and math achievement in children and adolescents, however, some research has also demonstrated non-significant associations between metacognition and math achievement. This could be due to varying ways metacognition was measured in the research (offline vs. online).
Most Studies Report a Positive Association Between Metacognition and Math Performance
31 studies met the inclusion criteria for the review and 29 for the meta-analysis. Studies were excluded if they did not include primary data, the only measure of math performance was self-reported, or participants had complex neurodevelopmental disorders. Studies were included if the research reported the strength of the association between metacognition and math performance. Nineteen of the 31 papers reported a statistically significant positive association between metacognition and math performance. Eight studies reported positive associations that were not statistically significant.
The Relationship Between Academic Performance and Metacognition Still Needs To Be Understood
The 29 studies in the meta-analysis included effect sizes (74 of them total) that indicated a significantly positive, medium-sized correlation between metacognition and achievement in math. To better understand the relationship between academic performance and metacognition, it is critical to understand the specifics of how each is being measured as there is quite a bit of variability.
“The results of the current review and meta-analysis have gone someway to highlight that measurements of MC, math tasks, and their combination are important in understanding associations between these variables.”
“Several systematic reviews and meta-analyses have explored associations between MC and academic achievement across different subjects in adult populations, highlighting small but significant associations between offline MC measures and student achievement.”
“Previous research has found that while MC thinking is evident in young children, its use in learning contexts to efficiently plan and control effort and attention to focus on what needs to be learned increases across childhood.”
This article seemed to have more impactful conclusions for researchers than for K-12 educators. It was interesting to know that there are different measures of metacognition, and that there can be a high degree of variability in concluding someone’s metacognitive ability based on the measure.—Matt Browne
Muncer, G., Higham, P. A., Gosling, C. J., Cortese, S., Wood-Downie, H., & Hadwin, J. A. (2022). A meta-analysis investigating the association between metacognition and math performance in adolescence. Educational Psychology Review, 34(1), 301-334.