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Individual differences in inhibitory control, not non-verbal number acuity, correlate with mathematics achievement

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posted on 2013-11-15, 15:06 authored by Camilla GilmoreCamilla Gilmore, Nina Attridge, Sarah Clayton, Lucy Cragg, Samantha Johnson, Neil Marlow, Victoria Simms, Matthew InglisMatthew Inglis
Given the well-documented failings in mathematics education in many Western societies, there has been an increased interest in understanding the cognitive underpinnings of mathematical achievement. Recent research has proposed the existence of an Approximate Number System (ANS) which allows individuals to represent and manipulate non-verbal numerical information. Evidence has shown that performance on a measure of the ANS (a dot comparison task) is related to mathematics achievement, which has led researchers to suggest that the ANS plays a critical role in mathematics learning. Here we show that, rather than being driven by the nature of underlying numerical representations, this relationship may in fact be an artefact of the inhibitory control demands of some trials of the dot comparison task. This suggests that recent work basing mathematics assessments and interventions around dot comparison tasks may be inappropriate.


C.G. is supported by a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship and M.I. is supported by a Royal Society Worshipful Company of Actuaries Educational Research Fellowship. N.M. receives part funding from the Department of Health’s NIHR Biomedical Research Centre’s funding scheme at UCLH / UCL. Experiment 1 was funded by a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council [grant no. ESRC - RES-000-22-2981] and Experiment 2 was funded by a grant from Action Medical Research.



  • Science


  • Mathematics Education Centre


GILMORE, C.K. ... et al, 2013. Individual differences in inhibitory control, not non-verbal number acuity, correlate with mathematics achievement. PLoS ONE, 8 (6), e67374


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This is an Open Access Article. It is published by Public Library of Science under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported Licence (CC BY). Full details of this licence are available at: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/




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