Estimation of Importance: Relative Contributions of Symbolic and Non-Symbolic Number Systems to Exact and Approximate Calculation

Rylan J. Waring, Marcie Penner-Wilger


The topic of how symbolic and non-symbolic number systems relate to exact calculation skill has received great discussion for a number of years now. However, little research has been done to examine how these systems relate to approximate calculation skill. To address this question, performance on symbolic and non-symbolic numeric ordering tasks was examined as predictors of Woodcock Johnson calculation (exact) and computation estimation (approximate) scores among university adults (N = 85, 61 female, Mean age = 21.3, range = 18-49 years). For Woodcock Johnson calculation scores, only the symbolic task uniquely predicted performance outcomes in a multiple regression. For the computational estimation task, only the non-symbolic task uniquely predicted performance outcomes. Symbolic system performance mediated the relation between non-symbolic system performance and exact calculation skill. Non-symbolic system performance mediated the relation between symbolic system performance and approximate calculation skill. These findings suggest that symbolic and non-symbolic number system acuity uniquely relate to exact and approximate calculation ability respectively.


numerical cognition; symbolic; non-symbolic; numeric ordering; calculation; estimation

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