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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Six does not just mean a lot: Preschoolers see number words as specific

  • Author(s): Sarnecka, Barbara W.
  • Gelman, Susan A.
  • et al.

ABSTRACT: This paper examines what children believe about unmapped number words—those number words whose exact meanings children have not yet learned. In the Study 1, 31 children (ages 2-10 to 4-2) judged that the application of five and six changes when numerosity changes, although they did not know that equal sets must have the same number word. In Study 2, 15 children (ages 2-5 to 3-6) judged that six plus more is no longer six, but that a lot plus more is still a lot. Findings support the hypothesis that children treat number words as referring to specific, unique numerosities even before know exactly which numerosity each word refers to.

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