A Direct Comparison of Two Measures of Ordinal Knowledge Among 8-Year-Olds


  • Chang Xu Orcid
  • Jo-Anne LeFevre Orcid
  • Sabrina Di Lonardo Burr Orcid
  • Erin A. Maloney Orcid
  • Judith Wylie Orcid
  • Victoria Simms Orcid
  • Sheri-Lynn Skwarchuk Orcid
  • Helena P. Osana Orcid


Children’s knowledge of the ordinal relations among number symbols is related to their mathematical learning. Ordinal knowledge has been measured using judgment (i.e., decide whether a sequence of three digits is in order) and ordering tasks (i.e., order three digits from smallest to largest). However, the question remains whether performance on these two ordinal tasks tap into similar cognitive processes. Canadian children (N = 87; Age M = 8.7 years, Grade 3) completed symbolic number tasks (i.e., number comparison, ordering, and order judgment) and measures of arithmetic fluency (i.e., addition and subtraction) and working memory (i.e., digit span backward). For both ordinal tasks, there was a reverse distance effect for ordered sequences such that children responded faster to adjacent than to non-adjacent sequences (e.g., 2 3 4 vs. 4 7 9) and a canonical distance effect for unordered sequences such that children responded faster to non-adjacent than to adjacent sequences (e.g., 4 2 3 vs. 4 9 7). Working memory and number comparison each predicted unique variance in the ordinal measures (ordering, order judgment, and a latent ordinal factor based on the two measures). Furthermore, ordinal skills superseded the role of number comparison as the key predictor of arithmetic, controlling for children’s gender and working memory skills. In summary, although both ordering and order judgment tasks index ordinal knowledge, a latent factor that excludes task-specific error may be a better index than either task separately.