Understanding mathematical development in preschool children: The association between mathematical language and mathematical abilities

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Abstract

Children's understanding of mathematical language has been put forward as an important correlate of their mathematical abilities. To date, no study has disentangled the precise roles of different types of mathematical language, such as quantitative (e.g., more) or spatial language (e.g., above) in preschool children. The existing studies have limited their assessment of mathematics to children's numerical competencies, but they did not consider broader aspects of mathematics, such as geometry and measurement. We aimed to address these two gaps by assessing 75 preschool-aged children's (Mage = 4 years 10 months) understanding of quantitative and spatial language. We investigated how both aspects of mathematical language correlated with children's performance in different domains of mathematics, namely numerical competencies, geometry and measurement. Results showed that, in contrast to our expectations, both quantitative language and spatial language were equally correlated with children's mathematical abilities. When we additionally controlled for children's general language, only spatial language was related to mathematical abilities, specifically to numerical competencies and to geometry. An exploratory path analysis further revealed that there was a strong association between children's general language skills and their performance in all three mathematical domains. In summary, these preschool children's general language skills were more strongly correlated with their success in mathematical domains than were their quantitative or spatial language skills.

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APA

Turan, E., & De Smedt, B. (2023). Understanding mathematical development in preschool children: The association between mathematical language and mathematical abilities. Cognitive Development, 66. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cogdev.2023.101318

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