Intensive Math Training Does not Affect Approximate Number Acuity: Evidence From a Three-Year Longitudinal Curriculum Intervention

Jessica Sullivan, Michael C. Frank, David Barner


Does nonverbal, approximate number acuity predict mathematics performance? Some studies report a correlation between acuity of representations in the Approximate Number System (ANS) and early math achievement, while others do not. Few previous reports have addressed (1) whether reported correlations remain when other domain general capacities are considered, and (2) whether such correlations are causal. In the present study, we addressed both questions using a large (N = 204) 3-year longitudinal dataset from a successful math intervention, which included a wide array of non-numerical cognitive tasks. While we replicated past work finding correlations between approximate number acuity and math success, these correlations were very small when other domain-general capacities were considered. Also, we found no evidence that changes to math performance induced changes to approximate number acuity, militating against one class of causal accounts.


numerical cognition, math, mental abacus, cognitive development

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