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Playing Linear Number Board Games—But Not Circular Ones—Improves Low-Income Preschoolers’ Numerical Understanding
A theoretical analysis of the development of numerical representations indicated that playing linear number board games should enhance preschoolers’ numerical knowledge and ability to acquire new numerical knowledge. The effect on knowledge of numerical magnitudes was predicted to be larger when the game was played with a linear board than with a circular board because of a more direct mapping between the linear board and the desired mental representation. As predicted, playing the linear board game for roughly 1 hr increased low-income preschoolers’ proficiency on the 2 tasks that directly measured understanding of numerical magnitudes—numerical magnitude comparison and number line estimation—more than playing the game with a circular board or engaging in other numerical activities. Also as predicted, children who had played the linear number board game generated more correct answers and better quality errors in response to subsequent training on arithmetic problems, a task hypothesized to be influenced by knowledge of numerical magnitudes. Thus, playing linear number board games not only increases preschoolers’ numerical knowledge but also helps them learn from future numerical experiences.