Implications of change or stability in core number capacities for math abilities


Poor numeracy is a significant handicap to people's lives, and may indicate comorbid developmental disorders such as developmental dyscalculia. People's numeracy ability is supported by two foundational number-specific core systems, one being the precise small number system which quickly and accurately allows an individual to enumerate a small set of objects (≤ 4). This fast and accurate enumeration is called subitizing, which has been found to predict children's early math development even when controlling for general cognitive processes such as IQ and reaction time. However, it is still unclear how subitizing develops over time, and whether its relationship with math ability persists in adulthood.

Research Questions / Hypotheses

The primary research question aims to (1) Examine the relationship between subitizing and VSWM in adults, and (2) The significance of subitizing and VSWM for arithmetic ability in adults We test the hypotheses that (1) VSWM will be positively correlated with subitizing, and (2) Subitizing ability will be associated with math ability in adults over and above VSWM. Specifically, those who show better subitizing ability will show better arithmetic ability, and (3) VSWM is associated with math arithmetic ability, and those who display better VSWM will also show better arithmetic ability.


So far, approximately 80 REP participants have completed the study. However, a second round of data collection will be conducted towards the beginning of Semester 2.


Participants will be recruited and complete the study online. Tasks include: (1) The dot enumeration task, where participants must identify the total number of dots (1 to 10 dots; 128 trials) on a screen as quickly and accurately as possible. Response accuracy and response time will be recorded. (2) Dot judgments task: Participants will be asked to choose which of two presented sets of dots are larger (160 trials) and select, as fast as possible, the accurate answer. Response and response time will be recorded. (3) Corsi block span task: Participants will be asked to tap a sequence of blocks after being presented the sequence on screen. The task ends when participant fail to successfully complete 2 trials consecutively. The longest correct block tap sequences will be recorded. (4) Simple reaction task: Participants will be asked to press a computer key when a dot appears on the screen (27 trials). Response time will be recorded. (5) Pattern matching task: Participants will be asked to select the matching piece to complete the pattern shown. (6) Arithmetic questions: Participants will be asked to give the answer to the number problem presented on the screen. Response accuracy and response time will be recorded. (7) Brief standardized math test for adults (subtest from WRAT-4). Response accuracy will be recorded.


Classification procedures such as latent class analysis, cross-classification methods, and regression analyses will be used in this study.


This research is designed to characterize the conceptual importance of subitizing and VSWM for differences in math abilities (e.g.., arithmetic). Results from this study will further current knowledge into the trajectory and importance of math development longitudinally. Study findings are anticipated to clarify the relationship between subitizing, VSWM, and math ability. This will help provide a more robust understanding of their individual usefulness as diagnostic screening tools for assessing those with developmental dyscalculia and math learning difficulties, and may inform intervention measures that aim to reduce or prevent low mathematic attainment.