The Role of Language in Children's Acquisition of Number Concepts

Principal Investigator: 
Project Overview
Background & Purpose: 

This study explores the relationship between symbolic and non-symbolic in the domain of numerical thought. A series of studies assess language acquisition (number words and counting) and development of number concepts in hearing and deaf/hard-of-hearing (DHH) preschoolers. The educational component of the project brings together early childhood educators, undergraduates, and researchers to consider the translation between cognitive development research and educational practice.


Studies are carried out at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, a very socially and economically diverse mid-size city.

Research Design: 

This project has a longitudinal, cross-sectional, and comparative research design and will generate evidence that is associative/correlational [quasi-experimental] and causal [quasi-experimental and statistical modeling]. Original data are being collected on Hearing and DHH children (ages 2 to 8) years) using school records, observation, and tasks designed for the purposes of these studies.

Levels of counting proficiency will be compared in DHH vs. hearing children. This project uses a set of brief number assessments developed by or adapted from the following: Give-N (Wynn, 1990); Fast Cards (LeCorre & Carey, 2007); Who Has More (Halberda & Feigenson, 2008); Manual Search (adapted from Feigenson & Carey, 2006); Caterpillar Game (adapted from Hannula & Lehtinen, 2005); Focus on Sets (original tasks).


In an earlier pilot project we were able to integrate a current prototype of the proposed intervention with the Virtual Math Teams environment. We have run a series of successful research studies in classroom contexts with a variety of versions of the support intervention that have yielded interesting findings. Analysis of recent studies is in progress.