Playing Reading, Using Hands: Which Activities are Linked to Number-Space Processing in Preschool Children?

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Literate subjects from Western cultures form spatial-numerical associations (SNA) in left-to-right direction, which follows their reading habits. In preliterate children, sources of SNA directionality are more disputable. One possibility is that SNA follows children's early knowledge about text orientation. It could also reflect ipsilateral/contralateral tendencies in manual task execution. Furthermore, SNA's characteristics could differ depending on the evaluation method used. In this study, we test SNA in preliterate preschoolers using object counting, finger counting, and numerosity arrangement tasks. We examined the relations of SNA to children's directional reading knowledge and their manual response tendencies. Left-to-right SNA was pronounced for object counting, disappeared for the numerosity task, and was reversed for finger counting. In all tasks, left-to-right SNA dominated in children who responded contralaterally with their hand. Reading knowledge was partially related to numerosity-based SNA, but not to other SNAs. Based on these findings, we discuss developmental characteristics of different forms of number-space associations.

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