When the mental number line involves a delay: The writing of numbers by children of different arithmetical abilities

E. van Loosbroek*, G.S.M.A. Dirkx, W. Hulstijn, F. Janssen

*Corresponding author for this work

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Our study focused on number transcoding in children. It investigated how 9-year-olds with and without arithmetical disabilities wrote Arabic digits after they had heard them as number words. Planning time before writing each digit was registered. Analyses revealed that the two groups differed not only in arithmetical abilities but also in verbal and reading abilities. Children with arithmetical disabilities were overall slower in planning Arabic digits than were control children with normal arithmetical abilities. In addition, they showed a number size effect for numbers smaller than 10, suggesting a semantically mediated route in number processing. Control children did not need more planning time for large numbers (e.g., 8) than for small numbers (e.g., 3), suggesting a direct nonsemantic route. For both two- and three-digit numbers, both groups of children showed a number size effect, although the effect was smaller each time for control children. The presence of the stronger number size effect for children with arithmetical disabilities was seen as a delay in the development of quick and direct transcoding. The relation between transcoding problems and arithmetical disabilities is discussed. A defect in the linking of numerical symbols to analog numerical representations is proposed as an explanation for the transcoding problems found in some children.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-39
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009

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