Research Topic

Processing Symbolic Numerical Information and its Implications for Mathematics Learning

About this Research Topic

Among the first demands that enculturation imposes on children's emerging numerical abilities is to learn to transcode their initial representations of quantity into symbolic notations. Even though children first encounter symbolic numerical representations when they begin to speak, it takes years of (formal) education before children master symbolic numerical representation including verbal number words and digital-Arabic notation. This process of numerical development requires children to acquire basic numerical abilities such as counting and mapping quantitative information onto number words or digits, as well as mastering the place-value structure of the Arabic number system, and applying all this in an integrated manner to perform arithmetic.

Understanding how the processing of symbolic numerical information is involved in and/or important for these basic numerical abilities is crucial in order to better understand the development of numerical cognition in humans. The quest for evidence elucidating this development needs to address diverse research questions through various methodological approaches. Among the most intriguing of these questions are those of how symbolic and non-symbolic numerical representations influence each other during numerical development, and how culture and language influence the processing of symbolic and/or non-symbolic numerical information.

Moreover, better understanding the processing of symbolic and non-symbolic numerical information may help to elucidate how children acquire numerical abilities including arithmetic as well as the potential reasons why some children fail to do so. There is evidence suggesting that mastery of symbolic numerical representations - more so than representations of non-symbolic quantities - in young children is a reliable predictor of later arithmetic achievement. Accordingly, some models argue that deficits in symbolic numerical representations are at the core of most cases of mathematics learning difficulties, including developmental dyscalculia.

The present Research Topic aims to provide the latest research results on the trajectories in which the processing of both symbolic and non-symbolic numerical information influences numerical development across different age groups. We welcome original studies adopting various methodological approaches (from cognitive to neuro-cognitive experiments) on both typically and atypically developing populations (including participants with learning difficulties and illiterates), which report the results of empirical studies. Moreover, we are interested in review articles discussing the current state of the art as well as perspective and opinion papers initiating and furthering scientific discourse on the topic of symbolic and non-symbolic numerical representations.


Keywords: numerical processing, mathematics, place-value processing, mathematics difficulties, child development


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Among the first demands that enculturation imposes on children's emerging numerical abilities is to learn to transcode their initial representations of quantity into symbolic notations. Even though children first encounter symbolic numerical representations when they begin to speak, it takes years of (formal) education before children master symbolic numerical representation including verbal number words and digital-Arabic notation. This process of numerical development requires children to acquire basic numerical abilities such as counting and mapping quantitative information onto number words or digits, as well as mastering the place-value structure of the Arabic number system, and applying all this in an integrated manner to perform arithmetic.

Understanding how the processing of symbolic numerical information is involved in and/or important for these basic numerical abilities is crucial in order to better understand the development of numerical cognition in humans. The quest for evidence elucidating this development needs to address diverse research questions through various methodological approaches. Among the most intriguing of these questions are those of how symbolic and non-symbolic numerical representations influence each other during numerical development, and how culture and language influence the processing of symbolic and/or non-symbolic numerical information.

Moreover, better understanding the processing of symbolic and non-symbolic numerical information may help to elucidate how children acquire numerical abilities including arithmetic as well as the potential reasons why some children fail to do so. There is evidence suggesting that mastery of symbolic numerical representations - more so than representations of non-symbolic quantities - in young children is a reliable predictor of later arithmetic achievement. Accordingly, some models argue that deficits in symbolic numerical representations are at the core of most cases of mathematics learning difficulties, including developmental dyscalculia.

The present Research Topic aims to provide the latest research results on the trajectories in which the processing of both symbolic and non-symbolic numerical information influences numerical development across different age groups. We welcome original studies adopting various methodological approaches (from cognitive to neuro-cognitive experiments) on both typically and atypically developing populations (including participants with learning difficulties and illiterates), which report the results of empirical studies. Moreover, we are interested in review articles discussing the current state of the art as well as perspective and opinion papers initiating and furthering scientific discourse on the topic of symbolic and non-symbolic numerical representations.


Keywords: numerical processing, mathematics, place-value processing, mathematics difficulties, child development


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

13 July 2020 Abstract
16 November 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

13 July 2020 Abstract
16 November 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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