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Inhibitory control may not explain the link between approximation and math abilities in kindergarteners from middle class families.

Keller L, Libertus M - Front Psychol (2015)

Bottom Line: Past research suggests that individual differences in the acuity of the approximate number system (ANS) are associated with children's math abilities.Similar to the result of Experiment 1, we found that associations between accuracy in the number comparison task and math ability persisted when controlling for performance on the inhibitory control task.Together these results suggest that ANS acuity is uniquely associated with early math abilities, independent of the effect of inhibitory control at least in children from middle- to high-SES families.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh , Pittsburgh, PA, USA.

ABSTRACT
Past research suggests that individual differences in the acuity of the approximate number system (ANS) are associated with children's math abilities. However, some recent work has argued that these associations can be explained through shared reliance on inhibitory control. Here, we test this claim in two separate experiments. In Experiment 1, forty-two 5- and 6-year-old children completed a non-symbolic number comparison task to assess ANS acuity as well as standardized experimenter-administered assessments for inhibitory control and math ability. Children's accuracy in the number comparison task and scores on the math assessment were significantly correlated, even when controlling for performance on the inhibitory control task. To rule out that our findings were due to the nature of the inhibitory control task, in Experiment 2, we administered a different, computerized inhibitory control task, and similar tasks to assess ANS acuity and math ability as in Experiment 1 to children aged 3-6 years (N = 169). Similar to the result of Experiment 1, we found that associations between accuracy in the number comparison task and math ability persisted when controlling for performance on the inhibitory control task. Together these results suggest that ANS acuity is uniquely associated with early math abilities, independent of the effect of inhibitory control at least in children from middle- to high-SES families.

No MeSH data available.


Sample stimuli used in the non-symbolic number comparison task in Experiment 1.
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Figure 1: Sample stimuli used in the non-symbolic number comparison task in Experiment 1.

Mentions: To assess the acuity of the ANS, children completed a non-symbolic number comparison task similar to that used by Halberda et al. (2008). Children saw sets of yellow and blue dots and, for each display, were asked to report which color was more numerous. In each image, yellow dots appeared on the left half of the screen and blue dots on the right and in half of the trials the yellow dots were more numerous and in the other half, the blue dots were more numerous. In one third of all trials (Correlated Trials), the average dot size was held constant between the two colors, such that the more numerous dots also had more overall surface area. In an additional third of all trials (Equated Trials), the total surface area was held constant across the blue and yellow dots. In the final third of trials (Anti-correlated Trials), the total perimeter was held constant, i.e., the dots on the more numerous side of the display took up less overall surface area than the dots on the less numerous side. Inhibitory control may be called upon more heavily in Anti-correlated and, to a lesser extent, Equated trials, given that children would need to ignore the irrelevant or even missing leading information regarding differences in surface area. This general pattern of associations has been found in past research utilizing these same conditions (Fuhs and McNeil, 2013). For all trials, dot size was on average 36 pixels in diameter and varied within sets (allowed variation = 20%). Stimuli were displayed for 1,500 ms on a 23′ computer monitor followed by a blank screen until the participants responded. The number of dots in each set ranged from 12 to 36. Example stimuli are shown in Figure 1.


Inhibitory control may not explain the link between approximation and math abilities in kindergarteners from middle class families.

Keller L, Libertus M - Front Psychol (2015)

Sample stimuli used in the non-symbolic number comparison task in Experiment 1.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4440905&req=5

Figure 1: Sample stimuli used in the non-symbolic number comparison task in Experiment 1.
Mentions: To assess the acuity of the ANS, children completed a non-symbolic number comparison task similar to that used by Halberda et al. (2008). Children saw sets of yellow and blue dots and, for each display, were asked to report which color was more numerous. In each image, yellow dots appeared on the left half of the screen and blue dots on the right and in half of the trials the yellow dots were more numerous and in the other half, the blue dots were more numerous. In one third of all trials (Correlated Trials), the average dot size was held constant between the two colors, such that the more numerous dots also had more overall surface area. In an additional third of all trials (Equated Trials), the total surface area was held constant across the blue and yellow dots. In the final third of trials (Anti-correlated Trials), the total perimeter was held constant, i.e., the dots on the more numerous side of the display took up less overall surface area than the dots on the less numerous side. Inhibitory control may be called upon more heavily in Anti-correlated and, to a lesser extent, Equated trials, given that children would need to ignore the irrelevant or even missing leading information regarding differences in surface area. This general pattern of associations has been found in past research utilizing these same conditions (Fuhs and McNeil, 2013). For all trials, dot size was on average 36 pixels in diameter and varied within sets (allowed variation = 20%). Stimuli were displayed for 1,500 ms on a 23′ computer monitor followed by a blank screen until the participants responded. The number of dots in each set ranged from 12 to 36. Example stimuli are shown in Figure 1.

Bottom Line: Past research suggests that individual differences in the acuity of the approximate number system (ANS) are associated with children's math abilities.Similar to the result of Experiment 1, we found that associations between accuracy in the number comparison task and math ability persisted when controlling for performance on the inhibitory control task.Together these results suggest that ANS acuity is uniquely associated with early math abilities, independent of the effect of inhibitory control at least in children from middle- to high-SES families.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh , Pittsburgh, PA, USA.

ABSTRACT
Past research suggests that individual differences in the acuity of the approximate number system (ANS) are associated with children's math abilities. However, some recent work has argued that these associations can be explained through shared reliance on inhibitory control. Here, we test this claim in two separate experiments. In Experiment 1, forty-two 5- and 6-year-old children completed a non-symbolic number comparison task to assess ANS acuity as well as standardized experimenter-administered assessments for inhibitory control and math ability. Children's accuracy in the number comparison task and scores on the math assessment were significantly correlated, even when controlling for performance on the inhibitory control task. To rule out that our findings were due to the nature of the inhibitory control task, in Experiment 2, we administered a different, computerized inhibitory control task, and similar tasks to assess ANS acuity and math ability as in Experiment 1 to children aged 3-6 years (N = 169). Similar to the result of Experiment 1, we found that associations between accuracy in the number comparison task and math ability persisted when controlling for performance on the inhibitory control task. Together these results suggest that ANS acuity is uniquely associated with early math abilities, independent of the effect of inhibitory control at least in children from middle- to high-SES families.

No MeSH data available.