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Cognitive mechanisms and social influences in number word acquisition

Silver, Alex Marissa (2024) Cognitive mechanisms and social influences in number word acquisition. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Individual differences in symbolic math skills have consequences for academic, career, financial, and health outcomes in daily life. This dissertation will focus on the development of number word knowledge in early childhood, a foundational skill required for later symbolic math learning. In three studies I will chart the development of number word knowledge, test the cognitive mechanisms involved in learning number words, and explore the role of environmental influences in this process. Specifically, in Study 1 I will show that toddlers already possess some understanding of number words that allows them to identify a quantity corresponding to a number word, despite limited understanding of exact cardinal values. Study 2 then assesses the cognitive mechanisms responsible for supporting number word comprehension in children who are in the process of learning the meanings of number words. I demonstrate that toddlers may succeed at identifying number words because they rely on approximate representations of quantity of the Approximate Number System and the parallel individuation of the Object Tracking System. While the majority of toddlers show a preliminary comprehension of number words, there are already substantial individual differences in their performance. Study 3 examines the role of environmental influences in number word learning by exploring how parents’ engagement in math activities is related to toddlers’ number word comprehension. In the final portion of this dissertation, I provide evidence suggesting that variations in parents’ engagement in math activities with their toddlers may be one reason for these early differences in exact number knowledge. Altogether, this work contributes to our understanding of the developmental trajectory of number word acquisition, the cognitive mechanisms that underly this process, and the role of social influences in supporting number word acquisition.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Silver, Alex Marissaams645@pitt.eduAMS6450000-0002-1300-1200
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairLibertus,
Committee MemberRottman,
Committee MemberFraundorf,
Committee MemberWang, Jinjing (Jenny)
Date: 8 May 2024
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 6 March 2024
Approval Date: 8 May 2024
Submission Date: 21 March 2024
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 180
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: number word acquisition, toddlers, early math, cognitive development, home math environment
Date Deposited: 08 May 2024 17:41
Last Modified: 08 May 2024 17:41

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