About Numerical Representations

Insights from Neuropsychological, Experimental, and Developmental Studies

Authored by: Michel Fayol , Xavier Seron

Handbook of Mathematical Cognition

Print publication date:  December  2004
Online publication date:  August  2005

Print ISBN: 9781841694115
eBook ISBN: 9780203998045
Adobe ISBN: 9781135423667


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Research into cognitive number processing has made considerable progress over the last twenty years (Dehaene, 1997; Butterworth, 1999). These advances have been the result of both work on acquired (Seron & Deloche, 1994) and developmental disorders in number computation and processing (Temple, 1997) and on adults’ and children’s performances during different phases of learning (Ashcraft, 1992; Fayol, 1990; Geary, 1994). Although there is an impressive volume of data providing us with valuable information, this sometimes makes it difficult to gain a global view of what has been learned, particularly in regard to the different types of representations involved in number processing. In this chapter, we shall address the question of the relations between the different mental representations, the existence of which have been postulated in order to account for number skills in human beings, whether innate or acquired, approximate or precise, symbolic or nonsymbolic. Within this perspective we shall, on the one hand, list the most important insights gained into the mental representations that underlie the elementary processing of numbers and, on the other, stress the shortcomings of the available theoretical proposals relating to these various representations and their functions, interrelations, and origins.

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