The Relationship Between Number Skills and Language in Preschool Children
Previous research has shown that symbolic number skills are important for later achievement (Duncan et al., 2007; Aunola, Leskinen, Lerkkanen, & Nurmi, 2004). However, current research is still cultivating an understanding of how children develop a strong, symbolic number system. One important domain that could play a role in this development is language. However, the majority of work examining the relationships between early language and number skills is lacking in two key respects. First, these studies use either phonological awareness or semantic knowledge as a proxy for language skill in general (e.g. Purpura & Reid, 2016; Purpura & Ganley, 2014); and second, we do not have clear knowledge of the mechanisms underlying these relationships (Purpura, Logan, Hassinger-Das, & Napoli, 2017). We aimed to address these gaps by examining both phonological skill and semantic knowledge. Furthermore, we developed a phonological rhyme judgment task, and semantic meaning judgment task to better examine the mechanisms we proposed to be underlying the relationships between these language skills and symbolic number skills. Seventeen children completed the two language tasks, an Arabic number comparison task, and verbal counting tasks. Using bootstrapped mediation analyses, no support was found for our hypothesized indirect relationship between phonological skill and Arabic number knowledge, with verbal counting as the mediator. However, support for our hypothesized direct relationship between semantic knowledge and Arabic number knowledge was found. These findings suggest that the ability to map from a symbol to that symbols meaning may be important for the development of symbolic number skills.