Encoding “10ness” Improves First-Graders’ Estimation of Numerical Magnitudes

Yu Zhang, Yukari Okamoto


Understanding numerical magnitudes is a foundational skill that significantly impacts later learning of mathematics concepts. The current study tested the idea that encoding of “10ness” is crucial to improving children’s estimation of two-digit number magnitudes. We used commercially available base-10 blocks for this purpose. The children in the experimental condition were asked to construct two-digit numbers by laying down the precise combinations of 10- and 1-blocks horizontally (e.g., three 10-blocks and seven 1-blocks for 37). Two control conditions were also included. In one control condition, children used 1-blocks only. In another control condition, children used one 10-block and as many 1-blocks as necessary. After working with the experimenter for only 15 minutes twice, the children in the experimental condition were significantly more accurate on the estimation task than those in the control conditions. The findings confirmed the importance of encoding 10ness as a unit in making accurate estimates of two-digit number magnitudes. The importance of encoding other units in the base-10 system is discussed.


numerical magnitudes; numerical estimation; numerical board games; numerical cognition; numerical language; place value; base-10

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