What counts in preschool number knowledge? A Bayes factor analytic approach toward theoretical model development

Yi Mou, Ilaria Berteletti, Daniel C. Hyde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Preschool children vary tremendously in their numerical knowledge, and these individual differences strongly predict later mathematics achievement. To better understand the sources of these individual differences, we measured a variety of cognitive and linguistic abilities motivated by previous literature to be important and then analyzed which combination of these variables best explained individual differences in actual number knowledge. Through various data-driven Bayesian model comparison and selection strategies on competing multiple regression models, our analyses identified five variables of unique importance to explaining individual differences in preschool children's symbolic number knowledge: knowledge of the count list, nonverbal approximate numerical ability, working memory, executive conflict processing, and knowledge of letters and words. Furthermore, our analyses revealed that knowledge of the count list, likely a proxy for explicit practice or experience with numbers, and nonverbal approximate numerical ability were much more important to explaining individual differences in number knowledge than general cognitive and language abilities. These findings suggest that children use a diverse set of number-specific, general cognitive, and language abilities to learn about symbolic numbers, but the contribution of number-specific abilities may overshadow that of more general cognitive abilities in the learning process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)116-133
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
StatePublished - Feb 2018


  • Approximate number system
  • Bayes factor
  • Counting
  • Early symbolic number knowledge
  • Executive function
  • Numerical cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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