Assessing Young Children's Number Magnitude Representation: A Comparison Between Novel and Conventional Tasks

Erin E. Reid, Arthur J. Baroody, David J. Purpura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previously, researchers have relied on asking young children to plot a given number on a 0-to-10 number line to assess their mental representation of numbers 1 to 9. However, such a (“conventional”) number-to-position (N-P) task may underestimate the accuracy of young children's magnitude estimates and misrepresent the nature of their number representation. The purpose of this study was to compare young children's performance on the conventional N-P task and a “modified” N-P task that is more consistent with a discrete-quantity view of number and with measures of theoretically related mathematical competencies. Participants (n = 45), ranging in age from 4;0 to 6;0, were administered both versions of the N-P task twice during 4 sessions in 1 of 2 randomly assigned and counterbalanced orders. Between and within conditions, children were significantly more accurate on the modified version than on the conventional task. The results indicate that the conventional task, in particular, may be confusing and that several simple modifications can make it more understandable for young children. However, when performance on theoretically related number tasks is taken into account, both the conventional and the modified N-P tasks appeared to underestimate competence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)759-779
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Cognition and Development
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 20 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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