A network analysis of the relationship among reading, spelling and maths skills

Pierluigi Zoccolotti, Paola Angelelli, Chiara Valeria Marinelli, Daniele Luigi Romano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. Skill learning (e.g., reading, spelling and maths) has been predominantly treated separately in the neuropsychological literature. However, skills (as well as their corresponding deficits), tend to partially overlap. We recently proposed a multi-level model of learning skills (based on the distinction among competence, performance, and acquisition) as a framework to provide a unitary account of these learning skills. In the present study, we examined the performance of an unselected group of third-to fifth-grade children on standard reading, spelling, and maths tasks, and tested the relationships among these skills with a network analysis, i.e., a method particularly suited to analysing relations among different domains. Methods. We administered a battery of reading, spelling, and maths tests to 185 third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade children (103 M, 82 F). Results. The network analysis indicated that the different measures of the same ability (i.e., reading, spelling, and maths) formed separate clusters, in keeping with the idea that they are based on different competences. However, these clusters were also related to each other, so that three nodes were more central in connecting them. In keeping with the multi-level model of learning skills, two of these tests (arithmetic facts subtest and spelling words with ambiguous transcription) relied heavily on the ability to recall specific instances, a factor hypothesised to underlie the co-variation among learning skills. Conclusions. The network analysis indicated both elements of association and of partial independence among learning skills. Interestingly, the study was based on standard clinical instruments, indicating that the multi-level model of learning skills might provide a framework for the clinical analysis of these learning skills.

Original languageEnglish
Article number656
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Maths
  • Reading
  • Spelling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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