Number Line Tasks and Their Relation to Arithmetics in Second to Fourth Graders


  • Carrie Georges
  • Christine Schiltz


Considering the importance of mathematical knowledge for STEM careers, we aimed to better understand the cognitive mechanisms underlying the commonly observed relation between number line estimations (NLEs) and arithmetics. We used a within-subject design to model NLEs in an unbounded and bounded task and to assess their relations to arithmetics in second to fourth grades. Our results mostly agree with previous findings, indicating that unbounded and bounded NLEs likely index different cognitive constructs at this age. Bounded NLEs were best described by cyclic power models including the subtraction bias model, likely indicating proportional reasoning. Conversely, mixed log-linear and single scalloped power models provided better fits for unbounded NLEs, suggesting direct estimation. Moreover, only bounded but not unbounded NLEs related to addition and subtraction skills. This thus suggests that proportional reasoning probably accounts for the relation between NLEs and arithmetics, at least in second to fourth graders. This was further confirmed by moderation analysis, showing that relations between bounded NLEs and subtraction skills were only observed in children whose estimates were best described by the cyclic power models. Depending on the aim of future studies, our results suggest measuring estimations on unbounded number lines if one is interested in directly assessing numerical magnitude representations. Conversely, if one aims to predict arithmetic skills, one should assess bounded NLEs, probably indexing proportional reasoning, at least in second to fourth graders. The present outcomes also further highlight the potential usefulness of training the positioning of target numbers on bounded number lines for arithmetic development.