Predictors of First Graders’ Number-Line Estimation Ability in Frontiers in Psychology, Cognition (Rich Daker & Ian Lyons)

Posted in Recently Published Papers

November 12, 2018 – Graduate student Rich Daker and Professor Ian Lyons have published a new paper in Frontiers in Psychology, Cognition.

Brief Summary:

Number-lines are a ubiquitous tool used in elementary classrooms to teach children about numbers. Previous research has shown that children’s number-line estimation ability – the ability to take a number (“43”) and place it accurately on a blank number-line marked only with “0” on one end and “100” on the other end – is a powerful predictor of more complex math ability. However, relatively little is known about what kinds of more basic numerical and non-numerical abilities predict this number-line estimation ability.

Our research examined what predicts first-grade children’s number-line estimation ability focusing on three types of ability: symbolic number processing (for example, knowing that the number “8” is greater than the number “4”); approximate number processing (for example, knowing which group of dots contains more dots); and non-verbal reasoning (for example, knowing which shape completes a pattern). Our results showed that only symbolic number processing and non-verbal reasoning skills uniquely explained differences in children’s number-line estimation ability. Interestingly, we found that for girls, only non-verbal reasoning skills were uniquely predictive of number-line estimation.

This work suggests that focusing on kids’ understanding of symbolic numbers and their general reasoning skills may help children learn better from number-lines in the classroom.


Daker RJ, Lyons IM (in press). Numerical and Non-Numerical Predictors of First Graders’ Number-Line Estimation Ability. Frontiers in Psychology, Cognition