A key priority for learning during the early years of school is for children to develop skills in numeracy and literacy. Consequently, less time may be allocated in the curriculum to foster other important developmental areas, including the ongoing motor skill development of school children, which has been positively linked to academic performance. In order to promote holistic approaches to teaching and learning in the early years of school, it is necessary to further delineate the nature of associations between motor skills and foundation academic skills. The aim of this study was to examine associations between fine and gross motor proficiency and academic performance in mathematics and reading in Year 1 children.
METHODS: A cross-sectional study was conducted with Year 1 children from two primary schools in New South Wales, Australia (N = 55; 25 boys, 30 girls; mean age 6.77 ± 0.40 years). The Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency (2nd Edition) and the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test II (Australian Edition) were used to assess motor proficiency and academic performance in mathematics and reading, respectively. Associations between the components of motor proficiency and academic outcomes were examined using Pearson's and Spearman's correlation analyses. Hierarchical multiple linear regression analyses were conducted to determine how much variance in mathematics and reading composite scores could be explained by motor proficiency after controlling for age.
RESULTS: A significant moderate positive association was found between total motor composite and mathematics composite scores (r = .466, p < .001). Fine manual control composite scores were significantly associated with both mathematics (rs = .572, p < .001) and reading (rs = .476, p = .001) composite scores. After controlling for age, fine motor integration was the only component of motor proficiency that explained significant variance in mathematics and reading composite scores.
CONCLUSIONS: The results of the study revealed that Year 1 children's overall motor proficiency was significantly related to their mathematical ability. Children's fine motor integration skills were also predictive of mathematics and reading ability. These study findings may interest both early childhood educators and paediatric health professionals.