Dissonances in theories of number understanding

Behavioral and Brain Sciences 31 (6):671-687 (2008)
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Traditional theories of how children learn the positive integers start from infants' abilities in detecting the quantity of physical objects. Our target article examined this view and found no plausible accounts of such development. Most of our commentators appear to agree that no adequate developmental theory is presently available, but they attempt to hold onto a role for early enumeration. Although some defend the traditional theories, others introduce new basic quantitative abilities, new methods of transformation, or new types of end states. A survey of these proposals, however, shows that they do not succeed in bridging the gap to knowledge of the integers. We suggest that a better theory depends on starting with primitives that are inherently structural and mathematical



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