Young children’s non-numerical ordering ability at the start of formal education longitudinally predicts their symbolic number skills and academic achievement in maths

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Abstract

Ordinality is a fundamental feature of numbers and recent studies have highlighted the role that number ordering abilities play in mathematical development (e.g., Lyons et al., 2014), as well as mature mathematical performance (e.g., Lyons & Beilock, 2011). The current study tested the novel hypothesis that non-numerical ordering ability, as measured by the ordering of familiar sequences of events, also plays an important role in maths development. Ninety children were tested in their first school year and eighty-seven were followed up at the end of their second school year, to test the hypothesis that ordinal processing, including the ordering of non-numerical materials, would be related to their maths skills both cross-sectionally and longitudinally. The results confirmed this hypothesis. Ordinal processing measures were significantly related to maths both cross-sectionally and longitudinally, and children’s non-numerical ordering ability in their first year of school (as measured by order judgments for everyday events and the parents’ report of their child’s everyday ordering ability) was the strongest longitudinal predictor of maths one year later, when compared to several measures that are traditionally considered to be important predictors of early maths development. Children’s everyday ordering ability, as reported by parents, also significantly predicted growth in formal maths ability between Year 1 and Year 2, although this was not the case for the event ordering task. The present study provides strong evidence that domain-general ordering abilities play an important role in the development of children’s maths skills at the beginning of formal education.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12645
JournalDevelopmental science
Early online date25 Jan 2018
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 25 Jan 2018

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