The Role of Basic Number Processing in High Mathematics Achievement in Primary School


  • Merel Bakker Orcid
  • Elise Pelgrims Orcid
  • Joke Torbeyns Orcid
  • Lieven Verschaffel Orcid
  • Bert De Smedt Orcid


While symbolic number processing is an important correlate for typical and low mathematics achievement, it remains to be determined whether children with high mathematics achievement also have excellent symbolic number processing abilities. We investigated this question in 64 children (aged 8 to 10), i.e., 32 children with persistent high achievement in mathematics (above the 90th percentile) and 32 average-achieving peers (between the 25th and 75th percentile). Children completed measures of symbolic number processing (comparison and order). We additionally investigated the roles of spatial visualization and working memory. High mathematics achievers were faster and more accurate in order processing compared to average achievers, but no differences were found in magnitude comparison. High mathematics achievers demonstrated better spatial visualization ability, while group differences in working memory were less clear. Spatial visualization ability was the only significant predictor of group membership. Our results therefore highlight the role of high spatial visualization ability in high mathematics achievement.