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Development of numerical estimation in Chinese preschool children


Although much is known about the development of mental representations of numbers, it is not clear how early children begin to represent numbers on a linear scale. The current study aimed to examine the development of numerical estimation of Chinese preschoolers. In total, 160 children of three age groups (51 3- and 4-year-olds, 50 5-year-olds, and 59 6-year-olds) were administered the numerical estimation task on three types of number lines (Arabic numbers, dots, and objects). All three age groups took the test on the 0-10 number lines, and the oldest group also took it on the 0-100 and 0-1000 Arabic number lines. Results showed that (a) linear representation of numbers increased with age, (b) representation of numbers was consistent across the three types of tasks, (c) Chinese participants generally showed earlier onset of various landmarks of attaining linear representations (e.g., linearity of various number ranges, accuracy, intercepts) than did their Western counterparts, as reported in previous studies, and (d) the estimates of older Chinese preschoolers on the 0-100 and 0-1000 symbolic number lines fitted the two-linear and linear models better than alternative models such as the one-cycle, two-cycle, and logarithmic models. These results extend the small but accumulating literature on the earlier development of number cognition among Chinese preschoolers compared with their Western counterparts, suggesting the importance of cultural factors in the development of early number cognition.

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