The Nonlinear Relations of the Approximate Number System and Mathematical Language to Early Mathematics Development

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Both mathematical language and the approximate number system (ANS) have been identified as strong predictors of early mathematics performance. Yet, these relations may be different depending on a child’s developmental level. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the relations between these domains across different levels of ability. Participants included 114 children who were assessed in the fall and spring of preschool on a battery of academic and cognitive tasks. Children were 3.12 to 5.26 years old (M = 4.18, SD = .58) and 53.6% were girls. Both mixed-effect and quantile regressions were conducted. The mixed-effect regressions indicated that mathematical language, but not the ANS, nor other cognitive domains, predicted mathematics performance. However, the quantile regression analyses revealed a more nuanced relation among domains. Specifically, it was found that mathematical language and the ANS predicted mathematical performance at different points on the ability continuum. These dual nonlinear relations indicate that different mechanisms may enhance mathematical acquisition dependent on children’s developmental abilities.

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