Does the transparency of the counting system affect children's numerical abilities?
Dowker A., Roberts M.
The Welsh language uses a regular counting system, whereas English uses an irregular counting system, and schools within Wales teach either through the medium of Welsh or English. This provides the opportunity to compare linguistic effects on arithmetical skills in the absence of many other confounding factors that arise in international comparisons. This study investigated the hypothesis that language properties influence children's performance in certain numerical tasks by comparing the performance of 20 Welsh- and 20 English-medium Year Two pupils in non-verbal line estimations and transcoding. Groups did not differ on global arithmetic abilities, but the pupils taught through the medium of Welsh on average performed better in the non-verbal line estimation tasks than the English-medium group. This superiority was most apparent in comparisons involving numbers over 20: a result which was complicated by the fact that Welsh-medium pupils showed a lower range of error scores than the English-medium pupils. These results were thought to be related to the increased transparency of the Welsh counting system.