The Development and Assessment of Early Cardinal-Number Concepts


  • Arthur J. Baroody Orcid
  • Kelly S. Mix Orcid
  • Gamze Kartal Orcid
  • Meng-lung Lai Orcid


Number-recognition tasks, such as the how-many task, involve set-to-word mapping, and number-creation tasks, such as the give-n task, entail word-to-set mapping. The present study involved comparing sixty 3-year-olds’ performance on the two tasks with collections of one to three items over three time points about 3 weeks apart. Inconsistent with the sparse evidence indicating equivalent task performance, an omnibus test indicated that success differed significantly by task (and set size but not by time). A follow-up analysis indicated that the hypothesis that success emerges first on the how-many task was, in general, significantly superior to the hypothesis of simultaneous development. It further indicated the how-many-first hypothesis was superior to a give-n-first hypothesis for sets of three. A theoretical implication is that set-to-word mapping appears to develop before word-to-set mapping, especially in the case of three. A methodological implication is that the give-n task may underestimate a key aspect of children’s cardinal understanding of small numbers. Another is that the traditional give-n task, which requires checking an initial response by one-to-one counting, confounds pre-counting and counting competencies.