Center for Brain and Cognition, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA
We investigated whether training the Approximate Number System (ANS) would transfer to improved arithmetic performance in 7-8 year olds compared to a control group. All children participated in Pre- and Post-Training assessments of exact symbolic arithmetic (additions and subtractions) and approximate symbolic arithmetic abilities (a novel test). During 3 weeks of training (approximately 25 minutes per day, two days per week), we found that children in the ANS Training group had stable individual differences in ANS efficiency and increased in ANS efficiency, both within and across the training days. We also found that individual differences in ANS efficiency were related to symbolic arithmetic performance. Regarding arithmetic performance, both the ANS training group and the control group improved in all tests (exact and approximate arithmetics tests). Thus, the ANS training did not show a specific effect on arithmetic performance. However, considering the initial arithmetic level of children, we found that the trained children showed a higher improvement on the novel approximate arithmetic test compared to the control group, but only for those children with a low pre-training arithmetic score. Nevertheless, this difference within the low pre-training arithmetic score level was not observed in the exact arithmetic test. The limited benefits observed in these results suggest that this type of ANS discrimination training, through quantity comparison tasks, may not have an impact on symbolic arithmetics overall, although we cautiously propose that it could help with approximate arithmetic abilities for children at this age with below-average arithmetic performance.