Symbolic processing mediates the relation between non-symbolic processing and later arithmetic performance

Sabrina Finke*, H. Harald Freudenthaler, Karin Landerl

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)
    5 Downloads (Pure)


    The nature of the relation between non-symbolic and symbolic magnitude processing in the prediction of arithmetic remains a hotly debated subject. This longitudinal study examined whether the influence of non-symbolic magnitude processing on arithmetic is mediated by symbolic processing skills. A sample of 130 children with age-adequate (N = 73) or below-average (N = 57) achievement in early arithmetic was followed from the end of Grade 1 (mean age: 86.9 months) through the beginning of Grade 4. Symbolic comparison of one- and two-digit numbers serially mediated the effect of non-symbolic comparison on later arithmetic. These results support a developmental model in which non-symbolic processing provides a scaffold for single-digit processing, which in turn influences multi-digit processing and arithmetic. In conclusion, both non-symbolic and symbolic processing play an important role in the development of arithmetic during primary school and might be valuable long-term indicators for the early identification of children at risk for low achievement in arithmetic.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number549
    Pages (from-to)1-10
    Number of pages10
    JournalFrontiers in Psychology
    Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2020

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • numerical cognition
    • non-symbolic
    • symbolic
    • longitudinal
    • mediation


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