A mechanistic study of the association between symbolic approximate arithmetic performance and basic number magnitude processing based on task difficulty

Wei Wei*, Wanying Deng, Chen Chen, Jie He, Jike Qin, Yulia Kovas

*Corresponding author for this work

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Two types of number magnitude processing - semantic and spatial - are significantly correlated with children's arithmetic performance. However, it remains unclear whether these abilities are independent predictors of symbolic approximate arithmetic performance. The current study addressed this question by assessing 86 kindergartners (mean age of 5 years and 7 months) on semantic number processing (number comparison task), spatial number processing (number line estimation task), and symbolic approximate arithmetic performance with different levels of difficulty. The results showed that performance on both tasks of number magnitude processing was significantly correlated with symbolic approximate arithmetic performance, but the strength of these correlations was moderated by the difficulty level of the arithmetic task. The simple symbolic approximate arithmetic task was equally related to both tasks. In contrast, for more difficult symbolic approximate arithmetic tasks, the contribution of number comparison ability was smaller than that of the number line estimation ability. These results indicate that the strength of contribution of the different types of numerical processing depends on the difficulty of the symbolic approximate arithmetic task.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1551
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberSEP
Publication statusPublished - 11 Sept 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Kindergartner
  • Number comparison
  • Number line estimation
  • Number processing
  • Symbolic approximate arithmetic
  • Task difficulty

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