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Effects of Daily Practice on Subitizing, Visual Counting, and Basic Arithmetic Skills

Author: Burkhart Fischer, Dipl. Phys., Andrea Köngeter, Dipl. Biol., and Klaus Hartnegg, Dipl. Phys.

Organization: Centre of Neuroscience, Optomotor Laboratory, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Federal Republic of Germany

Journal: Optometry & Vision Development 39: 1 (2008)



Background: The ability of subitizing and counting undergoes a long lasting development until the age of 17 years. Large proportions of children with problems in acquiring basic arithmetic skills exhibit developmental deficits in the correctness and speed of this special visual capacity. The first study described in this paper tests the possibility that subitizing and visual counting can be improved by daily practice. The second study described in this paper shows that basic arithmetic skill were significantly improved in a trained as compared to an untrained control group.

Methods: Altogether, 74 subjects (age 7 to 13 y) participated in the first study. They were given a special task for daily practice during a period of 21 days. Corresponding to the state of the subject under training the difficulty of the task was adapted. For the second study 21 children (aged 7.5 to 9 y), were recruited from a local school. All children had problems in basic mathematics and failed the test of subitizing. The training group (N=10) was given the required training, while the waiting group (N=11) had to wait. A standard test of basic mathematics (DEMAT) was used to measure basic arithmetic skills before and after the training.

Results: The analysis of the pre-post training data revealed that subitizing and counting were significantly improved in about 85% of the subjects: they reached the normal range of the control subjects (N=133) of the same age. The second study shows that basic arithmetic skills were significantly improved in a trained as compared to an untrained control group. Conclusion: Since the result of the second study of this paper shows a transfer from improvements in subitizing to improvements of basic arithmetic skills one may conclude that the basic visual capacity of subitizing and visual number counting contributes to the problem encountered by children with dyscalculia.

Keywords: subitizing, visual number counting, dyscalculia

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