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Numerical approximation abilities correlate with and predict informal but not formal mathematics abilities.

ABSTRACT

Previous research has found a relationship between individual differences in children's precision when nonverbally approximating quantities and their school mathematics performance. School mathematics performance emerges from both informal (e.g., counting) and formal (e.g., knowledge of mathematics facts) abilities. It remains unknown whether approximation precision relates to both of these types of mathematics abilities. In the current study, we assessed the precision of numerical approximation in 85 3- to 7-year-old children four times over a span of 2years. In addition, at the final time point, we tested children's informal and formal mathematics abilities using the Test of Early Mathematics Ability (TEMA-3). We found that children's numerical approximation precision correlated with and predicted their informal, but not formal, mathematics abilities when controlling for age and IQ. These results add to our growing understanding of the relationship between an unlearned nonsymbolic system of quantity representation and the system of mathematics reasoning that children come to master through instruction.