Differential processing of symbolic numerical magnitude and order in first-grade children

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Journal of experimental child psychology



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A growing body of evidence has indicated a link between individual differences in children's symbolic numerical magnitude discrimination (e.g., judging which of two numbers is numerically larger) and their arithmetic achievement. In contrast, relatively little is known about the processing of numerical order (e.g., deciding whether two numbers are in ascending or descending numerical order) and whether individual differences in judging numerical order are related to the processing of numerical magnitude and arithmetic achievement. In view of this, we investigated the relationships among symbolic numerical magnitude comparison, symbolic order judgments, and mathematical achievement. Data were collected from a group of 61 first-grade children who completed a magnitude comparison task, an order judgment task, and two standardized tests of arithmetic achievement. Results indicated a numerical distance effect (NDE) in both the symbolic numerical magnitude discrimination and the numerical order judgment condition. However, correlation analyses demonstrated that although individual differences in magnitude comparison correlated significantly with arithmetic achievement, performance on the order judgment task did not. Moreover, the NDE of the magnitude and order comparison performance was also found to be uncorrelated. These findings suggest that order and numerical magnitude processing may be underpinned by different processes and relate differentially to arithmetic achievement in young children.

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