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Title: The developmental onset of symbolic approximation: beyond nonsymbolic representations, the language of numbers matters
Authors: Xenidou-Dervou, Iro
Gilmore, Camilla K.
van der Schoot, Menno
van Lieshout, Ernest C.D.M.
Keywords: Numerical cognition
Nonsymbolic approximate arithmetic
Symbolic approximate arithmetic
Kindergarten children
Number naming system
Symbolic arithmetic development
Cross-cultural comparison
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Frontiers / © The Authors
Citation: XENIDOU-DERVOU, I. ... et al, 2015. The developmental onset of symbolic approximation: beyond nonsymbolic representations, the language of numbers matters. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, article 487.
Abstract: Symbolic (i.e., with Arabic numerals) approximate arithmetic with large numerosities is an important predictor of mathematics. It was previously evidenced to onset before formal schooling at the kindergarten age (Gilmore et al., 2007) and was assumed to map onto pre-existing nonsymbolic (i.e., abstract magnitudes) representations. With a longitudinal study (Experiment 1), we show, for the first time, that nonsymbolic and symbolic arithmetic demonstrate different developmental trajectories. In contrast to Gilmore et al.’s (2007) findings, Experiment 1 showed that symbolic arithmetic onsets in grade 1, with the start of formal schooling, not earlier. Gilmore et al. (2007) had examined English-speaking children, whereas we assessed a large Dutch-speaking sample. The Dutch language for numbers can be cognitively more demanding, for example, due to the inversion property in numbers above 20. Thus, for instance, the number 48 is named in Dutch “achtenveertig” (eight and forty) instead of “forty eight.” To examine the effect of the language of numbers, we conducted a cross-cultural study with English- and Dutch-speaking children that had similar SES and math achievement skills (Experiment 2). Results demonstrated that Dutch-speaking kindergarteners lagged behind English-speaking children in symbolic arithmetic, not nonsymbolic and demonstrated a working memory overload in symbolic arithmetic, not nonsymbolic. Also, we show for the first time that the ability to name two-digit numbers highly correlates with symbolic approximate arithmetic not nonsymbolic. Our experiments empirically demonstrate that the symbolic number system is modulated more by development and education than the nonsymbolic system. Also, in contrast to the nonsymbolic system, the symbolic system is modulated by language.
Description: This is an open-access article published by Frontiers and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Sponsor: This work was supported by the NWO (National Dutch Organization for Scientific Research) under Grant number PROO41107 111. CG is funded by a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship.
Version: Published
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00487
URI: https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/2134/18282
Publisher Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00487
ISSN: 1664-1078
Appears in Collections:Published Articles (Mathematics Education Centre)

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