Early Numeracy Skills in Preschool-Aged Children: A Review of Neurocognitive Findings and Implications for Assessment and Intervention


Objectives: The goals were to (1) provide a review of the typical and atypical development of early numeracy; (2) present what is known about the neurocognitive underpinnings of early numeracy; and (3) discuss the implications for early assessment and intervention. 

Method: Studies on the development of typical and atypical early numeracy were reviewed, with a particular focus on longitudinal findings, including those from the authors’ work on spina bifida myelomeningocele. Implications of this research for assessment are presented. The paper ends with a discussion of early math interventions. 

Results: Learning to count, identify numbers, and compare and manipulate quantities are key early numeracy skills. These are powerful predictors of school-age mathematical learning and performance. General neurocognitive abilities such as working memory and language are also important for the development of early numeracy. It is recommended that early assessment for risk of mathematical learning difficulties include tests of both early number knowledge and key neurocognitive abilities. Math-specific interventions are most effective for improving early numeracy. There is currently little evidence that training of general cognitive functions transfers to mathematical learning. 

Conclusion: Understanding the development of early numeracy skills and their neurocognitive predictors offer important insights into early assessment and intervention for children at risk for or with mathematics learning difficulties.


Raghubar, K. P., & Barnes, M. A. (2016). Early numeracy skills in preschool-aged children: A review of neurocognitive findings and implications for assessment and intervention. The Clinical Neuropsychologist. Advance online publication. doi:10.1080/13854046.2016.1259387