Re-thinking ‘normal’ development in the early learning of number

Alf Coles, Nathalie Sinclair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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In this article we suggest that, notwithstanding noted differences, one unmarked similarity across psychology and mathematics education is the dominance of the view that there is a ‘normal’ path of development. We focus particularly on the case of the early learning of number and point to evidence that puts into question the dominant narrative of how number sense develops through the concrete and the cardinal. Recent neuroscience findings have raised the potential significance of ordinal approaches to learning number. We draw on empirical evidence to suggest that what children can do, and in what order, is sensitive to, among other things, the curriculum approach. We draw out implications from our work for curriculum organisation in the early years of schooling and the potential of technology to disrupt taken-for-granted paths that are embedded in pencil-and-paper technology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136–158
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Numerical Cognition
Issue number1
Early online date7 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Special Issue: Psychology and Mathematics Education - bridging approaches to research for understanding the learning and teaching of number


  • early number
  • development
  • mathematics
  • teaching
  • technology


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