Introduction. Behavioral inattention, working memory (WM), and academic achievement share significant variance, but the direction of relationships across development is unknown. The aim of the present study was to determine whether WM mediates the pathway between inattentive behaviour and subsequent academic outcomes.Methods. 204 students from grades 1–4 (49.5% female) were recruited from elementary schools. Participants received assessments of WM and achievement at baseline and one year later. WM measures included a visual-spatial storage task and auditory-verbal storage and manipulation tasks. Teachers completed the SWAN behaviour rating scale both years. Mediation analysis with PROCESS (Hayes, 2013) was used to determine mediation pathways.Results. Teacher-rated inattention indirectly influenced math addition fluency, subtraction fluency and calculation scores through its effect on visual-spatial WM, only for boys. There was a direct relationship between inattention and math outcomes one year later for girls and boys. Children who displayed better attention had higher WM scores, and children with higher WM scores had stronger scores on math outcomes. Bias-corrected bootstrap confidence intervals for the indirect effects were entirely below zero for boys, for the three math outcomes. WM did not mediate the direct relationship between inattention and reading scores.Discussion. Findings identify inattention and WM as longitudinal predictors for math addition and subtraction fluency and math calculation outcomes one year later, with visual-spatial WM as a significant mediator for boys. Results highlight the close relationship between inattention and WM and their importance in the development of math skills
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