How Do Children Learn the Number One?

How Do Children Learn the Number One?

Cognitive and Developmental Neuroscience Lab (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Who Can Participate

For toddlers aged 14-24 months

What Happens

In this study, your toddler will see a series of pictures that animate. Some of these pictures will be of different kinds and numbers of shapes. Other pictures will be of lines pointing in various directions. We’re interested in whether your child will look at one side of the screen more often than another. There’s nothing you have to do other than let the experiment play while we record your baby's looking.

What We're Studying

We currently know that babies have precise concrete number concepts. For example, babies understand that 1 Mickey Mouse plus another Mickey Mouse toy equals 2 Mickey Mouse toys. We also know that babies have abstract but fuzzy number concepts. For example, after babies watch 16 dots for a few minutes, they will find a chime with 8 tones more interesting than a chime with 16 tones. Importantly, these abstract number concepts are fuzzy meaning that babies can't really tell the difference between 8 and 9 but they can when the difference is big like between 8 and 16. We are interested in whether toddlers have precise AND abstract number concepts before they understand and use number words. In other words, do children consciously understand that 2 stars are equivalent to 2 squares? Understanding how young children think about small numbers (like one, two, and three) before they understand number words will help researchers design early interventions for children who struggle with numbers and math!


20 minutes


We will email a Junior Scientist Certificate (no monetary value) to families who have elected to provide us with their email, and have a child clearly present in the video frame while the experimental session is ongoing. Families should expect to receive their certificates within 1 week of participating in the final session, regardless of study completion or data withdrawal. There is no additional compensation provided but we hope you enjoy the opportunity to contribute to science!

This study is conducted by

Would you like to participate in this study?