Barrocas_et_al_Putting_Finger_Numerical_Development_FrontiersPsy_2020.pdf (2.17 MB)
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Putting a finger on numerical development – reviewing the contributions of kindergarten finger gnosis and fine motor skills to numerical abilities

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journal contribution
posted on 12.06.2020, 14:17 by Roberta Barrocas, Stephanie Roesch, Caterina Gawrilow, Korbinian MoellerKorbinian Moeller
The well-documented association between fingers and numbers is not only based on the observation that most children use their fingers for counting and initial calculation, but also on extensive behavioral and neuro-functional evidence. In this article, we critically review developmental studies evaluating the association between finger sensorimotor skills (i.e., finger gnosis and fine motor skills) and numerical abilities. In sum, reviewed studies were found to provide evidential value and indicated that both finger gnosis and fine motor skills predict measures of counting, number system knowledge, number magnitude processing, and calculation ability. Therefore, specific and unique contributions of both finger gnosis and fine motor skills to the development of numerical skills seem to be substantiated. Through critical consideration of the reviewed evidence, we suggest that the association of finger gnosis and fine motor skills with numerical abilities may emerge from a combination of functional and redeployment mechanisms, in which the early use of finger-based numerical strategies during childhood might be the developmental process by which number representations become intertwined with the finger sensorimotor system, which carries an innate predisposition for said association to unfold. Further research is nonetheless necessary to clarify the causal mechanisms underlying this association.


This study was partially funded by the LeibnizWissenschaftsCampus Cognitive Interfaces (IWM-WCT TP11 “Digits grasp digits”) to RB, as well as by the DFG (MO 2525/7-1) to KM.



  • Science


  • Mathematics Education Centre

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Frontiers in Psychology




Frontiers Media SA


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© Barrocas, Roesch, Gawrilow and Moeller

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This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) ( The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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Prof Korbinian Moeller. Deposit date: 10 June 2020

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