Neural and Behavioral Signatures of Core Numerical Abilities and Early Symbolic Number Development

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Humans can think and reason about numbers even before learning to speak. Behavioral research over the last few decades has suggested that such competencies are based on at least two distinct nonverbal abilities: the ability to select, attend to, and track a limited number of individual items simultaneously and the ability to represent the approximate numerical magnitude of a set of items. Advances in cognitive neuroscience further suggest that these abilities are rooted in at least two distinct cognitive and brain systems, or core systems of number, which are active in early infancy and persist throughout the lifespan. Further, while it appears that both core systems contribute to symbolic number and mathematical development, the exact role of each remains to be clarified. Consequently, in this chapter we review emerging evidence concerning these matters and conclude that each core system may play an important and unique role in the capacity for and development of symbolic number and mathematics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDevelopment of Mathematical Cognition
Subtitle of host publicationNeural Substrates and Genetic Influences: Volume 2
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9780128018712
ISBN (Print)9780128019092
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Approximate number system
  • Counting
  • Mathematics
  • Numerical cognition
  • Numerosity
  • Object-tracking
  • Parallel individuation system
  • Symbolic development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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