Preschool Children's Mapping of Number Words to Nonsymbolic Numerosities

Five-year-old children categorized as skilled versus unskilled counters were given verbal estimation and number word comprehension tasks with numerosities 20 – 120. Skilled counters showed a linear relation between number words and nonsymbolic numerosities. Unskilled counters showed the same linear relation for smaller numbers to which they could count, but not for larger number words. Further tasks indicated that unskilled counters failed even to correctly order large number words differing by a 2 : 1 ratio, whereas they performed well on this task with smaller numbers, and performed well on a nonsymbolic ordering task with the same numerosities. These findings provide evidence that large, approximate numerosity representations become linked to number words around the time that children learn to count to those words reliably.
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