Longitudinal development of number line estimation and mathematics performance in primary school children

© 2015 The Authors. Children's ability to relate number to a continuous quantity abstraction visualized as a number line is widely accepted to be predictive of mathematics achievement. However, a debate has emerged with respect to how children's placements are distributed on this number line across development. In the current study, different models were applied to children's longitudinal number placement data to get more insight into the development of number line representations in kindergarten and early primary school years. In addition, longitudinal developmental relations between number line placements and mathematical achievement, measured with a national test of mathematics, were investigated using cross-lagged panel modeling. A group of 442 children participated in a 3-year longitudinal study (ages 5-8. years) in which they completed a number-to-position task every 6. months. Individual number line placements were fitted to various models, of which a one-anchor power model provided the best fit for many of the placements at a younger age (5 or 6. years) and a two-anchor power model provided better fit for many of the children at an older age (7 or 8. years). The number of children who made linear placements also grew with age. Cross-lagged panel analyses indicated that the best fit was provided with a model in which number line acuity and mathematics performance were mutually predictive of each other rather than models in which one ability predicted the other in a non-reciprocal way. This indicates that number line acuity should not be seen as a predictor of math but that both skills influence each other during the developmental process.

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CC BY-NC-ND 4.0