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J Exp Child Psychol. 2015 Jan;129:12-25. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2014.08.004. Epub 2014 Sep 18.

Reexamining the language account of cross-national differences in base-10 number representations.

Author information

1
Lynch School of Education, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467, USA. Electronic address: vasilyev@bc.edu.
2
Lynch School of Education, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467, USA. Electronic address: laski@bc.edu.
3
Lynch School of Education, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467, USA.
4
Department of Human Development and Family Studies, National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei 106, Taiwan, Republic of China.
5
Department of Psychology, Catholic University of Korea, Seoul 137-701, Republic of Korea.

Abstract

East Asian students consistently outperform students from other nations in mathematics. One explanation for this advantage is a language account; East Asian languages, unlike most Western languages, provide cues about the base-10 structure of multi-digit numbers, facilitating the development of base-10 number representations. To test this view, the current study examined how kindergartners represented two-digit numbers using single unit-blocks and ten-blocks. The participants (N=272) were from four language groups (Korean, Mandarin, English, and Russian) that vary in the extent of "transparency" of the base-10 structure. In contrast to previous findings with older children, kindergartners showed no cross-language variability in the frequency of producing base-10 representations. Furthermore, they showed a pattern of within-language variability that was not consistent with the language account and was likely attributable to experiential factors. These findings suggest that language might not play as critical a role in the development of base-10 representations as suggested in earlier research.

KEYWORDS:

Base-10; Cross-national; Language; Mathematics; Numeric; Representation

PMID:
25240152
DOI:
10.1016/j.jecp.2014.08.004
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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