The Development of Arabic Digit Knowledge in 4- to 7-Year-Old Children


  • Birgit Knudsen
  • Martin H. Fischer
  • Anne Henning
  • Gisa Aschersleben


Recent studies indicate that Arabic digit knowledge rather than non-symbolic number knowledge is a key foundation for arithmetic proficiency at the start of a child’s mathematical career. We document the developmental trajectory of 4- to 7-year-olds’ proficiency in accessing magnitude information from Arabic digits in five tasks differing in magnitude manipulation requirements. Results showed that children from 5 years onwards accessed magnitude information implicitly and explicitly, but that 5-year-olds failed to access magnitude information explicitly when numerical magnitude was contrasted with physical magnitude. Performance across tasks revealed a clear developmental trajectory: children traverse from first knowing the cardinal values of number words to recognizing Arabic digits to knowing their cardinal values and, concurrently, their ordinal position. Correlational analyses showed a strong within-child consistency, demonstrating that this pattern is not only reflected in group differences but also in individual performance.