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Open Mind

2018, Vol. 2, No. 1, Pages 37-46
(doi: 10.1162/opmi_a_00016)
© 2017 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license
The Use of a Computer Display Exaggerates the Connection Between Education and Approximate Number Ability in Remote Populations
Article PDF (466.2 KB)
Piazza et al. reported a strong correlation between education and approximate number sense (ANS) acuity in a remote Amazonian population, suggesting that symbolic and nonsymbolic numerical thinking mutually enhance one another over in mathematics instruction. But Piazza et al. ran their task using a computer display, which may have exaggerated the connection between the two tasks, because participants with greater education (and hence better exact numerical abilities) may have been more comfortable with the task. To explore this possibility, we ran an ANS task in a remote population using two presentation methods: (a) a computer interface and (b) physical cards, within participants. If we only analyze the effect of education on ANS as measured by the computer version of the task, we replicate Piazza et al.’s finding. But importantly, the effect of education on the card version of the task is not significant, suggesting that the use of a computer display exaggerates effects. These results highlight the importance of task considerations when working with nonindustrialized cultures, especially those with low education. Furthermore, these results raise doubts about the proposal advanced by Piazza et al. that education enhances the acuity of the approximate number sense.