Quantification of Discrete Sets: A Synthesis

Kelly S. Mix, Janellen Huttenlocher and Susan Cohen Levine

in Quantitative Development in Infancy and Early Childhood

Published in print April 2002 | ISBN: 9780195123005
Published online April 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199893959 | DOI:
Quantification of Discrete Sets: A Synthesis

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When the infant evidence is considered alongside evidence from pre-schoolers, a paradox emerges. How can children know so little about number when infants seem to know so much? This chapter presents a synthesis across age of the evidence for various competencies (i.e. matching, ordering, and calculating). It offers several hypotheses for explaining this developmental disconnection based on inferences about the underlying mental representations for quantity. For example, one possibility is that infants and young children represent quantities the same way, but infants' mental processing is more error-prone and noisy. Another possibility is that both infants and children represent discrete quantity, but do so using different representations. That is, the infants' representation may not be sufficient to perform more demanding tasks used with pre-school children and thus, must be replaced. Finally, the chapter identifies two key dimensions that show development across the infancy-early childhood age period: (1) an increase in the set sizes that can be processed; and (2) an increase in detachment from concrete details of the sets.

Keywords: infancy; pre-school; mental representation; number; equivalence; ordinality; calculation; set size; numerical abstraction

Chapter.  4942 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Developmental Psychology

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