Both intelligence and metacognitive skillfulness have been regarded as important predictors of math performance. The role that metacognitive skills play in math, however, seems to be subjected to change over the early years of secondary education. Metacognitive skills seem to become more general (i.e., less domain-specific) by nature (Veenman and Spaans in Learn Individ Differ 15:159–176, 2005). Moreover, according to the monotonic development hypothesis (Alexander et al. in Dev Rev 15:1–37, 1995), metacognitive skills increase with age, independent of intellectual development. This hypothesis was tested in a study with 29 second-year students (13–14 years) and 30 third-year students (14–15 years) in secondary education. A standardized intelligence test was administered to all students. Participants solved math word problems with a difficulty level adapted to their age group. Thinking-aloud protocols were collected and analyzed on the frequency and quality of metacognitive activities. Another series of math word problems served as post-test. Results show that the frequency of metacognitive activity, especially those of planning and evaluation, increased with age. Intelligence was a strong predictor of math performance in 13- to 14-year-olds, but it was less prominent in 14- to 15-year-olds. Although the quality of metacognitive skills appeared to predict math performance in both age groups, its predictive power was stronger in 14- to 15-year-olds, even on top of intelligence. It bears relevance to math education, as it shows the increasing relevance of metacognitive skills to math learning with age.
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