Children's arithmetic development: it is number knowledge, not the approximate number sense, that counts

Silke M Göbel, Sarah E Watson, Arne Lervåg, Charles Hulme

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article, we present the results of an 11-month longitudinal study (beginning when children were 6 years old) focusing on measures of the approximate number sense (ANS) and knowledge of the Arabic numeral system as possible influences on the development of arithmetic skills. Multiple measures of symbolic and nonsymbolic magnitude judgment were shown to define a unitary factor that appears to index the efficiency of an ANS system, which is a strong longitudinal correlate of arithmetic skills. However, path models revealed that knowledge of Arabic numerals at 6 years was a powerful longitudinal predictor of the growth in arithmetic skills, whereas variations in magnitude-comparison ability played no additional role in predicting variations in arithmetic skills. These results suggest that verbal processes concerned with learning the labels for Arabic numerals, and the ability to translate between Arabic numerals and verbal codes, place critical constraints on arithmetic development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)789-798
Number of pages10
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number3
Early online date30 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2014

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© 2014 The Authors. This is an author produced version of a paper published in Psychological Science. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.

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