Counting and cardinal understanding in children with Down syndrome and typically developing children

J. Nye, M. Fluck, Sue Buckley

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This study compares the procedural counting ability (independently and with parental support) and conceptual understanding of cardinality of a group of children with Down syndrome and a group of typically developing children, matched for non-verbal mental age. Participants were 23 children with Down syndrome (chronological age range: 3.5 - 7 years; mental age range: 2.5 - 4 years) and 20 typically developing children (chronological age range: 2 - 4 years; mental age range: 2.5 - 4 years), and their main caregiver. The children were asked to count sets of toys (assessing procedural counting skills) and to give sets of toys (assessing understanding of cardinality), with set sizes between 2 and 18 items. The counting task was performed in two conditions, with and without parental support. The children were also asked to say the count word sequence aloud, to assess sequence production independent from object counting. The typically developing children produced significantly more number words altogether, longer standard number sequences and could count larger sets than the children with Down syndrome. Support from an adult improved performance on the count task significantly for both groups of children, and there was no significant difference between the groups in the degree of improvement, i.e. the zone of proximal development. No significant differences were found between the frequency of children (approximately one third) in each group who used counting to solve the give task, indicating an understanding of cardinality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-78
Number of pages11
JournalDown Syndrome Research and Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2001


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