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    Spatial skills and counting sequence knowledge: Investigating reciprocal longitudinal relations in early years

    Liu, Y and Zhang, X (2021) Spatial skills and counting sequence knowledge: Investigating reciprocal longitudinal relations in early years. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 59. pp. 1-11. ISSN 0885-2006

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    Abstract

    Despite the robust findings indicating the positive role of spatial skills in a variety of mathematics skills (e.g., calculation), no empirical evidence has been provided concerning the longitudinal reciprocal relations between spatial skills and oral counting – perhaps the earliest form of symbolic representation. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the reciprocal longitudinal relations between spatial skills and three types of counting sequence knowledge (counting range, counting forward, and counting backward), which were measured at three time points between ages 3 to 4 years in a group of 109 young Hong Kong children. A series of family background and domain-general variables (i.e., family SES, vocabulary knowledge and behavioral regulation) were measured as covariates. Results from the cross-lagged panel analyses showed a reciprocal relationship between the children's counting sequence knowledge and their spatial skills, but this relationship only occurred between Time 2 (i.e., fall semester in the first year of kindergarten) and Time 3 (i.e., spring semester in the first year of kindergarten) and not between Time 1 (i.e., end of the nursery year) and Time 2. Further analyses showed that this pattern of results was task dependent. Reciprocal relations were found only in the counting range task and the counting backward task; no reciprocal relationship was found between spatial skills and the counting forward task. The findings reveal the developmental reciprocal link between spatial skills and early mathematics competency (i.e., the production of counting lists) and further highlight that this link varies according to children's conceptual levels of counting knowledge. Implications for classroom practices and teaching strategies are discussed.

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