Numerical processing has been demonstrated to be closely associated with arithmetic skills, however, our knowledge on the development of the relevant cognitive mechanisms is limited. The present longitudinal study investigated the developmental trajectories of numerical processing in 42 children with age-adequate arithmetic development and 41 children with dyscalculia over a 2-year period from beginning of Grade 2, when children were 7; 6 years old, to beginning of Grade 4. A battery of numerical processing tasks (dot enumeration, non-symbolic and symbolic comparison of one- and two-digit numbers, physical comparison, number line estimation) was given five times during the study (beginning and middle of each school year). Efficiency of numerical processing was a very good indicator of development in numerical processing while within-task effects remained largely constant and showed low long-term stability before middle of Grade 3. Children with dyscalculia showed less efficient numerical processing reflected in specifically prolonged response times. Importantly, they showed consistently larger slopes for dot enumeration in the subitizing range, an untypically large compatibility effect when processing two-digit numbers, and they were consistently less accurate in placing numbers on a number line. Thus, we were able to identify parameters that can be used in future research to characterize numerical processing in typical and dyscalculic development. These parameters can also be helpful for identification of children who struggle in their numerical development.
- Dot counting
- Number comparison
- Number line
- Numerical processing development