Numerical Development - From cognitive functions to neural underpinnings
Klaus F. Willmes
Living at the beginning of the 21st century requires being numerate, because numerical abilities are not only essential for life prospects of individuals but also for economic interests of post-industrial knowledge societies. Thus, numerical development is at the core of both individual as well as societal interests. There is the notion that we are already born with a very basic ability to deal with small numerosities. Yet, this often called “number sense” seems to be very restricted, approximate, and driven by perceptual constraints. During our numerical development in formal (e.g., school) but also informal contexts (e.g., family, street) we acquire culturally developed abstract symbol systems to represent exact numerosities – in particular number words and Arabic digits – refining our numerical capabilities. In recent years, numerical development has gained increasing research interest documented in a growing number of behavioural, neuro-scientific, educational, cross-cultural, and neuropsychological studies addressing this issue. Additionally, our understanding of how numerical competencies develop has also benefitted considerably from the advent of different neuro-imaging techniques allowing for an evaluation of developmental changes in the human brain. In sum, we are now starting to put together a more and more coherent picture of how numerical competencies develop and how this development is associated with neural changes as well. In the end, this knowledge might also lead to a better understanding of the reasons for atypical numerical development which often has grieve consequences for those who suffer from developmental dyscalculia or mathematics learning disabilities. Therefore, this Research Topic deals with all aspects of numerical development: findings from behavioural performance to underlying neural substrates, from cross-sectional to longitudinal evaluations, from healthy to clinical populations. To this end, we included empirical contributions using different experimental methodologies, but also theoretical contributions, review articles, or opinion papers.