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Title: The aetiology of the number sense and its relationship with mathematics : a genetically sensitive investigation
Author: Tosto, Maria
ISNI:       0000 0004 2750 8824
Awarding Body: Goldsmiths College (University of London)
Current Institution: Goldsmiths College (University of London)
Date of Award: 2012
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Number sense is defined as the process of extracting numerical information by estimating numerosity and magnitudes of numerical symbols. Humans show great variability in estimation skills from an early age. Although little is known about the origin of individual differences in number sense, these individual variations positively correlate with mathematics. This thesis presents the first large-scale genetically sensitive investigation into the origins of number sense and into the nature of its relationship with mathematics. The research plan can be devised in two parts. In the first phase, a battery of web-tests age appropriate for 16-year olds, designed to assess number sense (as measured by numerosity and magnitude estimation), mathematics and cognitive abilities was created and validated. The battery was then administered to the large UK representative of twins of the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS). In the second phase, using data from 7,598 sixteen year-old twins from the TEDS sample, this thesis used univariate and multivariate genetic analyses to investigate the contribution of genes and environment to individual differences in number sense and to its association with mathematics. The results suggested that individual differences in number sense abilities were mostly driven by non-shared environmental factors, with modest contribution of genetic factors. No average or aetiological sex differences were found in number sense. The relationship between mathematics and number sense was largely genetically mediated. However, contrary to the predictions, the genetic relationship between number sense and mathematics was found to be mediated by g. The existing longitudinal data in the TEDS sample was used to investigate the retrospective relationship between number sense, measured at 16, and mathematics and a range of cognitive abilities, measured at 16 and at previous ages as far back as age 7. The results suggest that the relationship between mathematics and number sense may be uneven across development. In particular, numerosity estimation may be important only at the very early stages of mathematical learning. Overall, this investigation did not find evidence that number sense is what is "special" about mathematics. The results support the Generalist Genes Hypothesis that same genes contribute to individual differences in various aspects of cognition and learning.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available