Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

Typical Development of Quantity Comparison in School-Aged Children

Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

Typical Development of Quantity Comparison in School-Aged Children

Article excerpt

Although basic numerical skills have been widely studied in the last years, very few studies have undertaken a developmental approach. The present study evaluated the development of the magnitude comparison basic numerical ability, in children from first, third and sixth grades by means of the subject's response time in numerical tasks presented in symbolic and non-symbolic formats. The results showed a significant decrease on quantities processing speed as age increases, which suggests numerical skills tend to become automatic with instruction. The differences found, concerning the general achievement pattern in each school year, might express the maturational specificities of the numerical representation system through development.

Keywords: development, distance effect, magnitude comparison, presentation format.

Aunque las capacidades numéricas básicas han sido ampliamente investigadas en los últimos años, muy pocos estudios han tenido en cuenta una perspectiva del desarrollo de las mismas. En este estudio se evaluó el desarrollo de la capacidad numérica básica de comparación de cantidades en escolares de primero, tercero y sexto grados, a través del análisis del tiempo de reacción de los sujetos en tareas numéricas presentadas en formatos simbólico y no simbólico. Los resultados mostraron una disminución significativa en la velocidad de procesamiento de las cantidades con el incremento de la edad, lo cual apunta a una automatización de las habilidades numéricas con el aumento del nivel escolar. Las diferencias encontradas en el patrón de rendimiento general en cada grado escolar podrían expresar las particularidades de la maduración del sistema de representación numérica en las diferentes etapas del desarrollo.

Palabras clave: comparación de magnitudes, desarrollo, efecto de distancia, formato de presentación.

Current scientific literature distinguishes between basic numerical skills (subitizing, counting and number comparison), which appear to be somehow genetically controlled, and the acquisition of more complex arithmetical abilities related to the mastery of concepts and mathematical procedures depending on formal schooling (Estévez, 2005). So that, the development of the mathematical learning processes cannot be explained exclusively considering the natural trajectory of development, highly dependent on biological maturation, but it would also considered the social and cultural trajectory depending on schooling (Álvarez & Del Río, 1990; Vigotsky, 1987).

The basic numerical skills dedicated to magnitude processing that emerging early in childhood, are frequently considered the core knowledge underlying the subsequent development of numerical processing and the complex arithmetical abilities (Halberda, Mazzocco, & Feigenson, 2008; Holloway & Ansari, 2009; Kaufmann, Handl, & Thoeny, 2003). This statement is based on recent research results, suggesting there is an innate deficit in the "numerical module" (Butterworth, 1999) or "number sense" (Dehaene, 1992; Wilson & Dehaene, 2007) underlying to the specific development deficits (usually called Developmental Dyscalculia). It's been demonstrated dyscalculic exhibit poorer achievement compared to controls in tasks engaging basic numerical processing such as non-symbolic quantities comparison and counting small sets of dots (Landerl, Bevan, & Butterworth, 2004; Landerl, Fussenegger, Moll, & Willburger, 2008).

Developmental features of numerical representations: Symbolic and Non Symbolic processing

Achievement in numerical tasks is often affected by the stimuli presentation format. Quantities can be represented through symbols: using letters (number words, roman numbers (e.g. four or IV, respectively) or Arabic code (e.g. 4), which generally involves a semantic analysis of the presented item; or through non symbolic stimuli (collection of objects). Processing of the latter is being closely related to perceptual non-numerical cues that naturally covary with numerosity (e. …

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