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date: 05 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article reviews recent research exploring children’s abilities to perform approximate arithmetic with non-symbolic and symbolic quantities, and considers what role this ability might play in mathematics achievement. It has been suggested that children can use their approximate number system (ANS) to solve approximate arithmetic problems before they have been taught exact arithmetic in school. Recent studies provide evidence that preschool children can add, subtract, multiply, and divide non-symbolic quantities represented as dot arrays. Children can also use their ANS to perform simple approximate arithmetic with non-symbolic quantities presented in different modalities (e.g. sequences of tones) or even with symbolic representations of number. This article reviews these studies, and consider whether children’s performance can be explained through the use of alternative non-arithmetical strategies. Finally, it discusses the potential role of this ability in the learning of formal symbolic mathematics.

Keywords: approximate number system, approximate arithmetic, non-symbolic representations, symbolic arithmetic, mathematics achievement

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